After land, it is now water that has landed the proposed steel plant of the Tatas in Bastar in the thick of a new controversy.
Environment activists are gearing up to protest against the state government's move to supply water from Indrawati river for constructing the plant and meeting the demand of water at the initial stage of the project.
"Any move to give water from Indrawati to the proposed Tata steel plant will be strongly opposed," Sharad Verma, president, Bastar Society for Conservation of Nature, told Business Standard. The society is collecting all details before drawing up a strategy, he added.
Indrawati is considered the lifeline of Bastar as it is a holy river for tribals. The river originates from Rampur-Ghumal village in Orissa's Kalahandi district. But a major part of the river (500 km of the total length of 800 km) flows in Chhattisgarh. About 43 per cent of the tribals in the interior parts of Bastar depend on Indrawati for their livelihood as the river is a major source of irrigation, fisheries and drinking water.
"The existence of the river is itself at stake as its course is returning to Orissa and merging with Jora nullah instead of entering the Bastar region," Verma said.
The Indrawati river will totally merge with Jora nullah in 10 years if immediate steps are not taken to reduce the width of the nullah, a report submitted to the Central Water Commission said. The governments of Orissa and Chhattisgarh had earlier agreed to construct a structure to check diversion of the course. But no headway was made.
"Water level recedes fast after the monsoon and, at many places, Indrawati gets dry as the natural flow diverts into Jora nullah near the state border and returns to Orissa," Verma said.
The industrial use of the Indrawati water would deepen the crisis," he said, adding: "If Tata draws water, it would set a new precedent as the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) would also demand water from Indrawati for its proposed sponge iron unit coming up in the area."
Manoj Varu,deputy secretary, department of water resources, said the Tata plant would get water from Indrawati for three years. It would be requiring 4 million cubic metres of water a year.
"Water from Indrawati would be used only as a stop-gap as the company would get water from Sabri for routine use," Krishna Nandan, Tata's project in-charge in Bastar, said.
The fresh dispute over the water deal has added a new chapter to the ongoing protest against the proposed 5 mtpa greenfield integrated steel plant coming up in the Lohandiguda block of the Bastar district. The state government is already facing a tough task to acquire land for the project, which will come up on 2,160.58 hectares.