LAVASA An eye opener!

The children from Jyotirmay International School and 3 teachers went on a field trip to Lavasa on the 21stof August 2014.

 


Prior to the trip,and to be better equipped to understand why we were going to Lavasa, the children had some exposure sessions on the “development” aspect of a project like Lavasa.
 

They explored andtried torelate their subjects of Global Perspective, Economics and Business Studies to the Project. Questions on social and environmental impacts caused by the construction of Lavasa, and thesocial, financial and cultural effect on the villagers were raised in these sessions.

Questions and thoughts raised by the children:

  • Lavasa is a tourist spot. Why not fairly involve the local people in this development. This is their land, and they should reap the benefits. It’s a multinational project, so get multinational agencies e.g. UN to give aid.
  • Provide jobs in the project for the local people.
  • Can we look for solutions for negative impacts, if any.

Questions posed to the children:

  • What would you do if you were an investor in the project?
  • What would you do if you were offered a lucrative job in the project?
  • What about other projects like Sahara city, Amby Valley??
  • How would you have felt about Lavasa ifyou hadn’t gone to Mugaon and talked to the locals?
     


To gauge the difference in awareness and impact, the children were asked to jot down what their impression of Lavasa was before any exposure given by the school, after some exposure and after their actualvisit to the Project.

Prior to the visit, Dr. Suhas Kolehkar was invited to talk and interact with the children. She is the Convener for Maharashtra,for the National Alliance of People’s Movement(NAPM) that deals with the people’s fight against injustice, displacement and environmental destruction in the name of Development. She also represents NAPM for policy interventions in other wider platforms like Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Right to Food Campaign, Right to Education and Maharashtra Mahila Arogya Hakka Parishad. She is directlyassociated with the Mose Khore Bachao Andolan which represents the people of the villages affected by the Lavasa Project.

With a detailed power point presentation, she gave usa background of her work in Lavasa. By interacting with her, aclearer picture evolved where the children began to see that besides the entertainment /investment value of the project, there were more underlying areas of concern. The destruction of the environment, the displacement of the locals,the unfair value of the land,the overuse of natural resources, etc.

Armed with the above background, the visit to Lavasa took place on the 21stof August 14.

The Management of Lavasa at Dasve gave usa very impressive overview of the project with some very well made multimedia presentations. They took us on a tour of their Hospitality Institute and their International Convention Center. But the children were not impressed!

After a break for lunch, we headed to Mugaonfor a reality check,toa village thatis being “developed” by Lavasain their second phase. Here we met Mr. Prasad Bagwe, a member of the “Mose Khore Bachao Janandolan”who took us around the area and showed us thehills and slopesthatwere being destroyed to accommodate the Project. This partof the Western Ghats actually comes under the eco-sensitive area (Environment Ministry). In a two-hour session,Mr. Prasad Bagwe explained how the struggle began way back when the Adivasis were displaced to build the Varasgaon dam and politicians already smelledprofits.

The locals who live here are from the Katkari, Dhangar or Kundbi Maratha tribes. We met Leelabai and Tomabai, affected Adivasis, who took us to their homes and gave us first hand experiences of their struggle to save their land. We also saw vast areas where excavation has taken place. This has been covered with green netting to give an effect that the hills are still green (on Google Maps)!

Before the actual construction work began,agents (thugs) were sent around to the local population to acquire their land, sometimes through unfair means like bribes, getting only one member of a joint family to signpapers, offering liquor, etc. Leelabai, a local and an activist now,had to lie on the ground in front of a JCB to protect atakeoverof her land for a road (the same road that the Management showed us as a short cut from Mumbai to Lavasa). Tomabai, another local told us how her family was intimidated by thugs who badly beat up herhusbandto get him to sign papers.

The Project wasnot interested that the nearest Secondary Schoolis25 Kms away or that the nearest Primary Health Center is 40 Kms away. All they were interested in was getting and developing the land for entertainment/investment value.

In the words of Lahoo, one of the local farmers and activist of the movement, “Now they are offering us jobs because they need labour. When the investors come to live here, we won’t even be cleaning toilets because we don’t speak English”

The children will surely take this experience toother projectsthat they get involved in.

The fun element and a high pointin their outing was of course, playing for almost an hourin a not yet unpolluted and cool stream in Mugaon.

Betty Remedios

August, 2014

 

Questions posed to the Jyotirmay children:

Q.1s: Write a note on what was shared with you before your trip to Lavasa.

Lavasa is a lake city located 2.5 hrs from Chandni Chowk, Pune. It is a popular hill station. Tourism is the main source of income. It is basically a large township covering 5 districts. Phase I of HADP (Hill Area Development Project) has started.

Dr. Suhas Kolhekar, an activist gave us an insight into some of the problems going on in Lavasa.

Generally, development means something that is beneficial for the people. But the Lavasa development process is focused only on one thing – profit for the politicians and the investors of the Project. The people pay taxes and this money is put into this project also. It is us who pay but the profit is earned only by the people involved in the project.

This project is at the cost of the environment. There can be no development of a place by destroying the place itself. The Ministers are the one deciding the life of the people, signaling that there is no democratic Government in India.

The basic environment problems are:

  • Cutting long stretches of mountains that will result in landslides, and Malin is a good example of this.

  • Testing of the water reservoir has shown that if fish are unable to survive, how will humans.

  • A lot of indigenous trees and forests are being cut down. We can replant these, but we don’t get the same ecology because it would take many years for the trees to grow.

Some of the social problems include:

  • Displacement of the local tribals where the project is planned.

  • Loss of culture and natural resources. These cannot be replaced.

  • There are protests by locals, NGO’s and other organizations too. They are the Mose Khore Bachao Andolan and National Alliance of People’s Movement.

  • 8 illegal dams have been constructed. These cut off the water supply to the city of Pune and other villages.

Purva Balchandani, Grade 10S
 

Qs.2: Write down at least ten questions that you wish to find answers for during your field trip.

  • What are the areas affected by Lavasa?

  • How much destruction has taken place with just this one township?

  • What are the different areas where Lavasa earns money?

  • What are the problems that the locals are facing because of Lavasa?

  • How can we stop these people from destroying the environment?

  • How will a large group like Lavasa manage their waste disposal?

  • What are the affected people doing to stop Lavasa?

  • Who are the owners of Lavasa?

  • What can we do to help the locals that are affected by Lavasa?

  • Where did the displaced people go?

Shriya Uttavarkar, Grade 10
 

Q.3: Create a proposal for the Government of India to rehabilitate the citizens who have been displaced due to dams. Keep the social and economical needs in mind.

We are a group of people and we want justice with reference to the case of Lavasa.

We request you to rehabilitate the citizens of Lavasa who have been displaced due to the construction of dams. These people are innocent and not guilty.

The businessmen who want to invest for a new township to make more and more money are the guilty ones. Just because the poor cannot stand for justice, it does not mean the investors can take advantage, break the law and make money illegally.

Nakshat Gupta, Grade 10
 

Q.4: Share with us skills that you that you will learn from field trips.

  • To keep the environment clean

  • Not to cut trees

  • Not to throw garbage in water bodies

  • Try to help citizens who live there

  • Respect their culture

  • Leadership qualities

  • Coordination skills

  • Different types of cultures

  • Learn what and how they cultivate

  • How they earn money and use the land

  • Why they are angry with the building of dams

Utkarsh Diwedi, Grade 10