KAIGA (KARWAR) – Kaiga located amidst dense forest of Sahyadri section of Western Ghats in Uttara Kannada District – one of the biggest districts of Karnataka State with abundant natural resources. The district has varied geographical features with thick forest, perennial rivers and abundant flora and fauna and a long coastal line.
Apart from natural resources the district has some man-made wonders. Supa Dam, Kadra Dam, Kodasalli Dam and Gerusoppa Dam are important among Hydro Electric Power Projects while Kaiga Generating Station is important Nuclear Power Project.
Kali Nadi Hydro Electric Project (KPCL) set-up across west flowing Kali River releases endless energy. Having origin at Diggi village in Western Ghats, joins Arabian Sea after completing journey of 160 kms.
The estimated power potential of the river is about 1700 MW with an annual yield of 6500 MU. Supa Dam, Kodasalli Dam, Kadra Dam are built in different phases having number of power generation units along with small dams across tributary rivers.
The main tribes of the district are Sidhi, Kunabi, Halakki Vokkaliga, Gonda and Gouli are spread across the district.
The five villages Balemane, Hartuga, Harur, Balase, and Sulageri come within five kilometers of radius of Kaiga Atomic Power Plant. The location of the villages and hamlets is that they are surrounded in one direction by Kaiga Atomic Power Plant, in another direction by Kali hydro power dam and its back water, and yet in another direction by the gigantic Sahyadri mountains.
This is a sensitive area wherein if any untoward man-made or natural disaster happens, it would be very difficult to protect the population residing in the area, it is even not possible to reach the area.
In addition to these, it is reported that if any terrorist activity is happening in any part of the country, the security agencies of Kaiga plant conduct thorough searches of each and every house located in this area and the people are thereby subjected to unnecessary harassment. This happens eight to ten times in a year.
Now, the 5th and 6th units with capacity of 750 MW power each are about to be commissioned. The sound and vibrations of earth are adversely affecting the health and living conditions of these people.
Also, as there are many restrictions over construction of new buildings and trading in view of Kaiga’s security and protection of forests, developing business or trade is impossible for these villagers, and has minimized employment opportunities.
In this pretext, villagers are skeptical about the claims of ‘proposed’ development by authorities. On other hand, as per the recent circular issued by the Forest Department, part of the region (Sulageri and Balemane) is proposed to be reserved for Tiger Sanctuary.
Balemane and Sulageri fall on north bank of the river Kali while other three villages along with Kaiga plant fall to the south. Most of the people living in these villagers belong to backward classes and tribes like Karevokkalu, Kunabi, Halakki Vokkaliga, Gonda , Gouli, Muslims and Christians.
A visit to these villages neighboring world famous Kaiga Plant reveals the pathetic conditions of villages and villagers. Whether it is road connectivity, education, health, communication, employment, governance, land rights or agriculture, villagers are deprived of the basic needs.
Sulageri village falls at the end of road before Kodasalli dam across the Kali River. The nearest place where these villagers have to depend is Kadra Village, a small town kind, is just 35kms away from the village.
This village has a school up to standard 7. Those who want to continue the education after class 7, have to travel to Kadra. For PUC studies students have to travel about 50kms to Ulaga town. Same with respect to health facility, villagers’ need to expedition to Kadra PHC, where according to villagers, facilities and services are irregular.
To reach Kadra, villagers depend upon one & only KSRTC bus that leaves the village at 6 in the morning and comes back around 10 in the night. Those who want to travel by this bus with peculiar timing, have to dedicate an entire day for even minute work. Consequently most of the children discontinue the education after standard 7 and get into the agriculture or collie job.
In emergency cases like labor pain or any other health issue, villagers have no other option than doing nothing. Unfortunately, this village has neither telephone connection nor mobile coverage.
The village, which has no access to the newspapers, has access to DD signals; but most of them cannot afford the TV sets. And these TV sets are the only medium to see their local MLA and MP occasionally.
Though they don’t have any deal with local Post Office, which is located 28 kms away at Malavalli, villagers need to walk for 8kms through the shortcuts amidst the forests to catch the bus.
The Village falls under the Gram Panchayat jurisdiction of Ulavi of Joida taluq, which is accessible by 12km of walking or 70 kms of bus travel. According to villagers, there is no such culture of President’s visit to these villages except during elections.
Fair Price shop is also located at Ulavi, from where these villagers carry the grains on the head by walking for 12 kms.
Many of the villagers, though have settled here from several decades have not yet got the land rights, and come under the category of ‘Atikramana’. Even after repeated and exhausted efforts of approaching GP and Taluk office, outcome is futile.
Summarizing the villagers’ grievance, Govind Ragoba Naik, a farmer aged 57 years says, “Even small kids are suffering from various diseases like eyesight problem, joint pain, respiratory problem, in these years. Agricultural produces are shrinking year by year. Untimely falling of coconuts, reduced production of paddy, ‘Nellikai’ and ‘itle’ have made us worry. We have noticed a kind of skin decease in fishes in the river and wells.”
“Once in a month or two, heavy noise comes from Kaiga plant. Sometimes we are not able to sleep for entire night. If noise can come, why can’t radiation through air?” further he asks.
Elaborating the sufferings of schooling and health, Prema Nayak, a housewife says, “We want our children to be educated, but we don’t have facility. We can’t afford their study in the towns. Pregnant women have to be shifted to Kadra 15-20 days in advance of possible dates to avoid any kind of complication at last moment. We undergo sequence of sufferings as they do not admit us in advance and provide services.”
CM Abdulla, 68 yr old paralyzed man, who had his hotel near Kodasalli since 46 years and was displaced during Dam construction, says, “8 people in the village are suffering from paralysis. Earlier there were no such cases of paralysis. In addition, we don’t have any transport and medical facility nearby. Sometimes we need to wait entire day for a doctor and sometimes we have to return all the way back in absence of doctor.”
In monsoon season, the villagers have to live without electricity for 15-20 days in a month and those students perusing education at Kadra, face lot of inconvenience.
Balemane village falls en-route to Kodasalli dam from Kadra at the distance of 18kms on the bank of River Kali.
Having similar kind of problems as of Sulageri, this village because of its location has more severity in suffering.
Here, children have to walk or travel 18kms either to Kadra or Sulageri for primary education itself. The facility of only KSRTC bus that runs with odd timings of 6.30am and 9pm is of no use for school going children, hence compelling them for not perusing primary education.
For healthcare and other facilities and services like PDS, Gram Panchayat, Post Office, and newspapers, villagers have to visit Karda by the ‘only’ KSRTC bus. Missing the bus costs the villagers who can’t afford cycling, including children, old aged and especially pregnant women, a walk for 18 kms!!
Some parts of the village have access to BSNL mobile signals, but people are not comfortable in handling and recharging the mobiles sets.
Here too, many of the villagers who have been settled here from several decades have not received land rights.
Abdul Raoof Sheikh, a farmer, aged 45 years says, “Cancer, hearing & eyesight problems, body & joint pains are on raise these years.” He believes that it’s because of Kaiga plant his sister Rameezabi got the cancer and died even though she had no addiction of any kind.
Showing the Kaiga Plant on other side of the River Kali, that is visible from his house he says, “Once in every week a shrill noise comes from plant apart from dense smoke. The entire village experiences the vibrations and scared cattle, monkeys, dogs run in different directions.”
“Farming is of no use in these years. Earlier we used to get 20 bags of paddy, but now, with same efforts it’s hardly 10 bags in the same land. The rice also has lost the quality.” he added.
Supporting Sheikh’s views another villager Jayaram Samba Naik says, “Why should we live here when there is no use of farming. Life has become tough. No meaning in living here, we need rehabilitation.”
Rudan Santan Rego too opines the same, said, “ Fishes too suffering from some skin deceases and we are bound to consume it. On other hand there is shortfall in agricultural produces.”
“Earlier we had seen people suffering only from fever, but these years we have come across different diseases like cancer and paralysis.” says Abdul Shukoor, whose father-in-law died of paralysis.
“We wish a bright future for our children. But nobody listen to us. Only during the elections MLA and other representatives’ come to our door, make the promise. Later they don’t even come to see whether the villagers are alive or not.” says distressed Ruksana.
“Kaiga authorities do collect sample from all kind of agricultural produces, paddy and water from us regularly for testing purpose. But, so far they have not come to us with report.” she adds.
(To be continued)