• Dam lies

    As Narmada River dams continue to rise, so too do the protests about the homes and livelihoods disappearing under dam waters… and the government lies about those who are displaced.


    It started as just another VIP visit. With platoons of security guards, fleets of flashing cars and bowing bureaucrats in tow, three Ministers of the Indian Government were sent by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assess whether villagers submerged by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) – a huge dam on the Narmada river – had been resettled properly.

    So the Ministers made their way from New Delhi, the capital, to Madhya Pradesh in central India, one of the three states affected by the project. The first stop: the red-carpet welcome by Madhya Pradesh’s chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He assured them that all project-affected families (PAFs) would be rehabilitated by 30 June 2006. On that optimistic note, Saifuddin Soz (Minister of Water Resources), Meira Kumar (Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment) and Prithviraj Chavan (from the Prime Minister’s office) set out to visit the submerging villages.
    Read more

  • Wild ass in the wild west

    The Little Rann of Kutch is hot, dry and salty but it has a wild ass. This barren landscape is teeming with life. The Agarias also live in this desolate mudflat to make salt.


    Photo: Dionne BunshaA salt pan Read more

  • When the dam had had enough

    It was like an elephant hurtling towards them, yet many of the huts on the banks of the rivers couldn’t move out of its way when the dams swelled

    in Sangli and Pune

    “Everyone is zero. Everything was washed away,” Dastagir Fakir, from Sakharwadi village in Sangli, told me. That’s the common refrain in districts worst affected by the floods that followed when water was released from a series of dams along the Krishna river.

    “When the water level started rising, our cattle started getting very restless and upset. We had to cut their ropes and let them go,” says Dastagir. He had spent Rs 4,000 to sow his one-acre with soyabean. It is now totally submerged. “On the first day, we were in chest-deep water. The next day, people from the village came to rescue us and took us to parts of Bhilawadi village that were not submerged. But water started rising there as well. And today, seven days later, they rescued us from the village.” Now, Dastagir and others have been crammed into small two-room school building that is functioning as a relief camp.
    Read more

  • Crocodile’s day out

    Central Gujarat went under. Was it a freak downpour or did Baroda sink under the weight of its own development?

    in Vadodara

    Water kept rising from under Lalji Vasava’s feet when torrential rains lashed his village. Before he knew what had hit him, his entire mud hut in Ankodia village near Vadodara started crumbling. Lalji took his family and fled to the local school, where many other villagers had sought shelter. By the next morning, nothing remained of his hut.

    Now homeless, Lalji rummages through the ruins, wondering how he will survive the rest of the monsoon. “I will have to take a loan from my sheth (employer). But right now, there isn’t much work either because all the fields are flooded,” he said. Lalji is still living in the local school, where the panchayat has made arrangements for their food.
    Photo: AFPVillagers and cattle take refuge on a hillock between Vadodara and Ahmedabad Read more

  • Red carpet for lions, red card for people

    Some of the Gir lions needed another home. The adivasis in Kuno forest gave up theirs on promises of a better life. But were given little more than stony land

    in Kuno forest, Madhya Pradesh
    Akke and Kheru share a beedi with their friends and stare at the stone in front of them. Blazing heat and rugged terrain is all they have. No trees, no crop, no cattle, no food, just stony land. Nothing can be grown here. All they can do with it is hammer away, breaking rocks for construction. They get just Rs 70 for a 100 huge boulders.
    Read more

  • A kingdom too small

    Lions in Gir look for new territories as the sanctuary is not large enough for their population

    in Sasan, Gir forest, Gujarat
    Photographs: Ashima Narain

    A lion prowling the beach? Yes, small groups of the last surviving Asiatic Lions in the world have moved out of the Gir Sanctuary in Saurashtra, Gujarat, towards the coastal forests of Diu. They haven’t disturbed any sunbathers yet. Nor have they attacked people in the coastal villages. The Gir protected area is simply too small for the only 327 Asiatic Lions on the planet, so the younger ones have moved out in search of prey – as far as Diu, around 80 km away.

    The Asiatic lions of Gir are the world’s last surviving group of the sub-species in the wild.

     “It may seem unusual to find a lion on the coast, but this isn’t the first time that they have reached the shore,” says Bharat Pathak, Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Junagadh. Lions were spotted in the coastal areas in the early 1900s as well, according to the Junagadh Gazetteer. Now, as the lion population is larger and open grasslands are shrinking, they are dispersing to reclaim the 2,560 sq. km. they once occupied in 1956. The Gir protected area is only 1,421 sq km of dry, deciduous forest, a little more than half the original size of the forest. There are territorial fights between lions, and only the strong retain their territories. The sub-adults have to move out.
    Read more