The Special Economic Zones, which is posing big threat
to the farmers and agriculture sector, is a completely anti
people and anti environment scheme. It is also a threat to the water
security and food security for the areas where SEZs are proposed and
would certainly have an impact on the national agricultural sector.
But the prime minister says SEZs are here to stay.
On April 6, the Group of Minister gave green signal for notification
of 83 more zones. The only concession the PM is ready to offer is what
he calls a just, humane, effective R&R policy.
The proposed policy would include a mandatory clause that the area
notified for SEZs or large scale industrial projects should not
touch existing residential/ dwelling units of villages.
THREAT TO ACCESS TO WATER In the entire din
surrounding the impacts of the Special Economic Zones
there is not much information on the impact of these
zones on the water situation in the areas around these
zones. The Finance Minister P Chidambaram has been
credited with a very interesting statement, "Where
infrastructure already exist, it is perhaps not necessary
to crate SEZs". The trouble is, in backward areas where
infrastructure is weak, the impact of SEZ on access to
water would be even more serious.
Broadly, there are three kinds of impacts that SEZ can
have on access to water for the people in the SEZ area.
First would be due to the diversion of water for use
within the SEZ. Second impact would be the impact of
release of effluents from the SEZ. Here the situation at
locations like Ankleshwar in Gujarat and Patancheru in
Andhra Pradesh, among scores of other places is
illustrative. At these places, the release of untreated
effluents from the industrial estates has created a hell for
the residents of the area. Our past performance in
achieving effective pollution control is dismal, to put it
most benevolently. And there is absolutely no movement
to change that situation.
Thirdly, the conversion of land to SEZ would mean
destruction of groundwater recharge systems. Moreover,
it should be remembered here that in India, right to
extract groundwater continues to be connected with the
ownership of land. Hence SEZs even in relatively small
area can pump out huge quantity of water, drying up the
wells of the surrounding area. There could be conflicts
between the zones and the local residents, as could be
seen at Plachimeda in Kerala, as also in Varanasi and
Cumulatively, the impact of all these could be quite
serious in most areas, and could precipitate crisis in the
water scarce areas. Land Requirement for SEZs According to the
website of the commerce Ministry, totally about 41 700
ha of land is to be taken for the formally approved and
notified SEZs. This looks like a gross under estimate if we consider
just a few large SEZs like the Nandigram SEZ (5 600 ha) in W Bengal
(this has been cancelled by the W state govt, but the Chief Minister
has said that it will come up elsewhere), Maha Mumbai (10 000 ha) and
Navi Mumbai (5 000 ha) SEZs in Maharashtra, the Mundra SEZ (13 000 ha)
in Gujarat, the Gurgaon SEZ of reliance (10 000 ha), the Pune SEZ (840
ha) and the POSCO SEZ (1 600 ha) in Orissa, to name a few known
examples. When land is acquired on such massive scale, the water
requirement for such SEZs would be huge and would have very large
impact on water access for the surrounding area. The
SEZs at such locations will also have impact on irrigation
and agricultural development.
The Govt of India SEZ Act of 2005 has
no mention of the sources of water for the proposed
zones, leave aside the question of restrictions or impact
assessment. In fact, the only time the Act mentions
water, it is in the context of territorial waters of India. The
SEZ acts or orders or notifications of various states give
a blank cheque to the water requirement for the zones.
For example, the Gujarat Act says, "The SEZ developer
will be granted approval for development of water supply
and distribution system to ensure the provision of
adequate water supply for SEZ units." Similar is the
situation for other states.
Available information about the water needs and sources
of water for various SEZs should ring alarm bells.
· Mahamumbai SEZ The massive water demand is to
be met by the Hetwane and Morba dams in Pen and
Khalapur tehsils in Raigarh district respectively, but there
doubts about the capacity of Hetwane reservoir. Farmers
had to struggle to get irrigation water due to them from
the reservoir, but that won't be available now.
· Navimumbai SEZ As per official website, it will
require at least 6 million liters per day, expects it to get
from Hetwane dam.
In the entire din surrounding the impacts of
the Special Economic Zones there is not
much information on the impact of these
zones on the water situation in the areas
around these zones. Broadly, there are three
kinds of impacts that SEZ can have on
access to water for the people in the SEZ
area. First would be due to the diversion of
water for use within the SEZ. Second impact
would be the impact of release of effluents
from the SEZ.
Mundra SEZ As per official website of the SEZ, it
expects to get at least 6 million liters per day from the
Sardar Sarovar project, as promised by Gujarat Water
Infrastructure Ltd. Ultimate water requirement would be
400 million litres per day. Here it is relevant to note that
the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of
India for Gujarat for the year ending on March 31, 2006
has already criticised Gujarat govt for extra allocation of
255 million litres per day water from the Sardar Sarovar
Project for central Gujarat areas for which there was no
provision in the plans. Moreover, the govt has allocated
more water for industries in Kutch, which would also
have impact on access to water for the drought prone
areas, as clearly indicated by the CAG report.
POSCO SEZ The water requirement, as given on the POSCO website,
is 286 million litres per day, will be procured from Jobra barrage
on Mahanadi River in Cuttack district in Orissa.
The water for this is bound
to come from the upstream
Hirakud dam. There is
already an agitation against
reservation of water from Hirakud dam for industrial use.
· Nagpur IT Park SEZ The official website says "The
water will be drawn from irrigation project" in a document
inviting express of interest.
· Mangalore SEZ In a letter in June '06 to the Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh, the convener of the SEZ
Impact Assessment Committee, an affiliate of the NGO
Forum of Mangalore has quoted the Mangalore SEZ
Limited having estimated the water need at 136 million
litres of water a day. When Mangalore city is facing
water crisis without the SEZ, one can imagine what will
be the case when SEZ comes up.
· Cochin SEZ The website of the Cochin SEZ
(www.CSEZ.com) says, "The Special Economic Zone is
a foreign territory within India… CSEZ has an integrated
water management system comprising a 1.5 MLD water
One can already see the seeds of conflict that these
water allocations would create. If these tips are any
indication, implementation of these SEZ will create crisis
of access to water for the people staying in areas around
the proposed SEZs.
Promise of National R&R Policy holds no water The
PM promised on January 11, '07 at a FICCI meeting (of
all places) that within three months a "humane" National
Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement will be
formulated. The trouble is that his government's track
record is very bad on that issue, like most other issues
affecting common people of the country His govt has not
bothered to implement the first ever National R&R
Policy, notified in Feb 2004, which does not lend any
credibility to his words.
Further to show how non serious the govt is about R&R,
on March 21, '07, the Union Commerce Ministry notified
some changes in the SEZ Act, stating among other
things, "the developer shall make adequate provision for
rehabilitation of displaced persons as per the relief and
rehabilitation policy of the state government". The
trouble is, no state has a just R&R policy that is legally
Private enterprise a public purpose? In a highly
questionable move, the govt intends to expand the
definition of public purpose
to include "to help private
enterprise", in addition to the
current "strategic interest"
and "center's and state's
infrastructure", and thus get
right to acquire land for
private projects. But this is
most shocking, as how can
the govt equate private
projects as public purpose?
This will also be unconstitutional. The impression among everyone in
the country that the govt, hand in glove with the private
industries and real estate developers, is out of cheat the
common people out of their lands at any cost, is entirely
Among the changes affected by the Group of Ministers
in SEZ policy on April 6 is one that says that the private
developer will acquire the land and the state will have
marginal role in land acquisition. This is unacceptable,
as this would leave the farmers at the mercy of the
private developer. In the negotiations between the
millionaire and paupers, it is well known who will win.
No Land Use Policy in India No state in India has a
land use policy, only a couple of states like Kerala have
a draft policy, yet to be converted into a Land Use policy.
In absence of land use policy, it is free for all and there is
no coordination between agricultural development, water
resources development, forest and wildlife conservation
and other uses of land.
Protests in W Bengal Nandigram is the most well
known face of protests against SEZ projects in W
Bengal, though it is not the only one. Protests are also
rising at Haripura where the govt wants to set up a huge
10 000 MW nuclear power project as SEZ. In Nandigram
in Medinipur district, the govt wanted to acquire 5600 ha
of land for setting up chemical industries SEZ. The W
Bengal govt is so adamant on setting up such SEZs that
at Nandigram, the police and armed CPM activists
together attacked thousands of innocent women,
The Govt of India SEZ Act of 2005 has no
mention of the sources of water for the
proposed zones, leave aside the question of
restrictions or impact assessment. In fact,
the only time the Act mentions water, it is in
the context of territorial waters of India. The
SEZ acts or orders or notifications of various
states give a blank cheque to the water
requirement for the zones.
Protests in Maharashtra The Govt of Maharashtra has
issued a land acquisition notice to acquire 10 000 ha
land of 45 villages in Pen, Uran and Panvel talukas of
Raigarh district for the proposed Mahamumbai SEZ by
Reliance. But farmers here have been strongly agitating
against this proposal, refusing to give any land for the
project. In Pen taluka there are people displaced by the
Koyna dam, still without potable water, living in
miserable conditions, punching holes in govt's claim of
rehabilitation. Adjacent to this land, the company, in joint
venture with the Maharashtra City and Industrial
Development Corporation, is acquiring 5000 ha for Navi
At Maan near Pune, where the govt plans to acquire 800
ha of land for industrial zone, a strong protest by the
farmers, fisherfolk, salt pan workers and other affected
persons demanded scrapping of the SEZ on April 5.
Food Security Threat The SEZ Act, by allowing
acquisition of (so called single cropped) agricultural land
for such zones, is threatening food security of the
country, with the stagnation of food production and
reduction in yields for a decade, even with the SEZs.
BJP's Kashiram Rana, Convener of Parliamentary
committee on SEZ says that the policy needs to be
scrapped and no agricultural land should be allowed to
be used for SEZs. However, his words do not hold too
much credibility as in a number of states like Gujarat,
where BJP is in power, agriculture land, even in Sardar
Sarovar Project Command area is being taken for SEZ.
Large scale Mangrove destruction in Gujarat In the
13 000 ha Mundra SEZ in Kutch in Gujarat, 3000 ha
area is covered by Mangroves, which are already being
destroyed for the SEZ. Gujarat Forest Dept has raised
an alarm over this destruction. Mangroves are also
facing destruction at a number of other locations in
Gujarat due to industrial expansion along the coast in
Kutch, Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Potentially the
largest SEZ in the country, the Mundra SEZ will destroy
fisheries and livelihood of large number of fisherfolk and
they are protesting against the SEZ. On Feb 14, '07, five
members of the community have filed a petition before
the Gujarat High Court. Nine villages have also lost their
grazing land to the SEZ.
Protest s in Haryana People of Gadauli Khurd village
near Manesar in Gurgaon District in Haryana on March
28, '07 opposed the possession of land by the govt to
hand it over to Reliance group (Mukesh) for SEZ. The
officials had to beat a retreat, but threatened to come
back to dispossess the people. On April 1, the farmers of
Khandsa, Narsinghpur, Mohammedpur, Gadouli and
Harsaru village took a collective decision not to give the
558 ha of land to the Reliance as the govt had taken the
land in 2003 in the name of industrialization in public
interest and decided to move court. Kuldeep Bishnoi, a
Member of Parliament has decided to sit on hunger
strike against the project. The proposed SEZ in Gurgaon
violates the norm finance minister has proposed that
SEZs should be taken up only in backward areas.
At Jhajjar in Haryana, Mukesh Ambani group plans to
set up a 10000 ha SEZ in partnership with Haryana
Industrial Development Corporation, but after the
decision of GoM on April 5 to limit the size of SEZs to
5000 ha and taking away the role of state to acquire land
for SEZ, this SEZ is in some trouble.
PIL in Rajasthan HC In response to a public interest
petition questioning the manner in which the Mahindra
World City SEZ was formed near Jaipur, the Rajasthan
High Court has issued notices to various concerned
including the Union and state govt.
What justification for subsidy to industries The SEZ
provides a large amount of subsidy to the industries and
there is absolutely no justification to provide any subsidy
to industries. Even agencies like the IMF and ADB have
questioned the need to provide subsidies to industries.
In its report Asian Development Outlook 2007, ADB says
the subsidies are expensive, unnecessary and would
provide disincentives to the units outside SEZs and also
would make the landless people the worst affected.
Projects so far So far, the board of approvals in the
commerce ministry, the single window clearing house for
the SEZ has approved 237 projects, of which 63 have
been notified, 60 are awaiting notification and the CMs
have been pushing their case. On April 5, the group of
Ministers approved notification of 83 more SEZs, limited
the size of SEZ to 5000 ha, asked state not to acquire
land for SEZ and said that one member of each of the
displaced family will be given employment. However,
there is no clarity how this will be implemented. Another
160 odd applications have received first stage clearance
as the developers do not have land in their possession.
There are 325 more applications that are pending. It is
clear that SEZ are going to remain a very big threat to
the farmers and agriculture of the country.
On World Water day this year, the Prime Minister said,
"we cannot allow human societies to descend into chaos
due to conflict on utilisation of water resources". Action
speaks louder than words, Mr Prime Minister.
Let us see what his govt does to address the conflicts
that SEZs are creating. A lot needs to be done to ensure
that water use at these SEZs do not become seeds of
bigger crisis in the days to come. Going by the track
record such hope does not seem realistic. (The Business
Line 090706, India Together 271106, The Economic Times 220307,
270307, 280307, 300307 The Times of India, 230307, 240307, 020407
The Hindu 240307, 060407 Down to Earth 310307, The Tribune
290307, Dainik Bhaskar 030407)