Sonali Kudva, Pulitzer Student Fellow
When I met with Vijay Gogre, an engineer who worked on the Nira-Deoghar dam, I had no idea what to expect. Government officials anywhere, in my opinion are not the most easy people to deal with. It came as a pleasant surprise to meet one that had no airs about him or his position. I had to revise my opinion on the ubiquitous government "babus."
Gogre sat down in a juice center, a place he had chosen for our meeting. As I set up the camera and took out my notebook to take notes, he gently took the notebook from my hands and explained in detail, the geographical location of the Nira-Deoghar dam, the areas that it would benefit and helped me set up meetings with other government officials who continued to work on the site. He explained that most people who worked on the project when he worked on it, were no longer working there. They had been transferred.
He drew a diagram for me on the course of the river and the numerous dams in the are. To my surprise, this was not the only dam in the area. There were four dams to consider, he told me. The Bhatghar dam, that stood on the Yelvandi river, the Gunjavni dam on the Gunjavni river and the Vir dam on the Nira river. The Nira-Deoghar dam then, was the most recent one to be built. Others had been built in the pre-independence eras and had not run into much controversy.
The strategic positioning of the Nira-Deoghar dam and the canals it was to have, he explained would benefit an area that did not previously have any water source. I later learnt that this area was also drought prone. The water from the proposed canals would benefit this area tremendously and would allow this area to be developed in an agricultural and industrial sense.
Gogre appeared to feel that the issue of privatization was one that was a roadblock to the development of this area. He asserted that privatization would be inevitable, as the government simply didn't have the funds to undertake such a huge project and with all the delay, the estimated cost of completing this project now stood at a whopping Rs. 1,000, 000,000,0000 (approximately $20,000,000,000). This amount, he explained would go up by 10 per cent every year.
At the end of this meeting, I felt much more enlightened on the issue of irrigation in Maharashtra, though I still had no idea what I would find when I went to the site.
Being a city-girl, I had never actually viewed a dam as an entity upon which so many livelihoods were dependent. A dam to me, had hitherto been something akin to a picnic area or a hiking trail. Many Indians go to visit the closest dam in their area during the monsoon season to inspect the levels of water in the dam. I had thus far been one of those people.