In light of the ongoing protests by tribals fearing displacement over the Par-Tapi-Narmada river-link project, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel on Saturday announced that the project has been scrapped.
The announcement has come nearly two months after state BJP president C R Paatil said that the project will not be given a go-ahead by the Centre, after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Despite his assurance, tribals continued their protest, fearing that the project will be implemented, causing a large-scale displacement in the project-affected districts.
Speaking to reporters, Patel said, "No approval has been given by the Gujarat government for this project. The state government has decided that it will not be taken forward under any circumstances.... Respecting the sentiments of our tribal brothers and sisters, it has been decided to cancel the project."
He further said that any scheme announced by the Centre is given a go-ahead only after the state government grants permission.
"For this project, the state government has not given any permission, and it is the state's decision not to take it forward in any situation," the chief minister said.
There is anger among tribals due to some "misunderstanding" created by some people who wrongly propagated that the project was not in their interest, he claimed.
The scheme was announced keeping in mind the interest of the tribals, as the Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the state government are implementing various schemes for the benefit of the tribal population, he said.
It is to be noted that Gujarat is slated to go to polls this December.
The opposition Congress reiterated that the chief minister's announcement is a "lollipop" targeted at the tribal vote bank.
Speaking about the status of the projects, Sitharaman had said in her budget speech that the draft DPR of the five river links has been finalised and consensus among beneficiary states is awaited.
The Centre will provide support only after a consensus is made among the states associated with the projects, she had said.
As per the India Water Resources Information System, the project had proposed to transfer water from the water surplus regions of the Western Ghats to deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch, involving seven reservoirs proposed in north Maharashtra and south Gujarat.
Apart from seven dams, it envisaged three diversion weirs, two tunnels, 395 km long canal, six power houses and a number of cross-drainage works.
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