The Bombay high court (HC) has come to the rescue of 75 tribal families residing in two villages that are almost cut off from outside world after the third phase of heightening of Barvi dam in Murbad tehsil of Thane district.
A division bench comprising chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Ajay Gadkari on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) to ensure that potable water and necessary transportation facilities are immediately provided to the tribal villages.
The bench also directed Thane district collector to file an affidavit giving a clear picture of the facilities available at the villages and the facilities which need to be provided.
The court was hearing a petition filed jointly by Kolewadkhal resident Kanha Bhika Kadali and Rajaram Zugare from Talyachi Wadi, representing the 75 tribal families residing in both the villages which are affected by heightening of Barvi dam from 68.6 metre to 76.22 metre.
According to the petition, Kolewadhakal is situated atop a hill and tribals residing in the settlement rely on the main roads leading out of the village to access healthcare facilities, high school and colleges located in Murbad, work places and also to their cultivable lands. However, for the past two years, due to increase in the height of Barvi dam, the village has essentially become an island, surrounded from all sides by water, completely inundating access roads and cutting them off from rest of the world.
The petition added that 2019 monsoon was particularly difficult for the villagers who had to travel through makeshift rafts and suffered colossal damage to agricultural lands and properties.
The situation in Talyanchi Wadi, according to the petitioners, was no different as the villagers remained cut off from main access roads the entire year. The tribal settlement, they said, was also surrounded by water on three sides with the fourth side being a dense forest, leaving the village without any access road.
They have, therefore, sought directions to MIDC to for permanent rehabilitation contending that the ministry of environment and forests has cleared the third phase of heightening of Barvi dam without allowing land for rehabilitation of the two tribal villages.
On Wednesday, their counsel, advocate Ronita Bector, pointed out that the tribals were in urgent need of ration, drinking water and transportation facility.
Advocate Shyamali Gadre, who represented MIDC, maintained that drinking water was being provided to villagers and they have been paid ₹6,500 per project-affected family towards ration.
Bector, however, disputed the claim about payment for ration, and pointed out that all the affected families were not paid the amount and it was not made clear by MIDC as to who all were held eligible to receive the benefits.
Judges said potable drinking water and transport were basic facilities and must be supplied by the concerned authorities.