filled. Critically, it was left to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to ensure that environmental safeguard measures were planned and implemented pari passu with progress of work on projects.
A second set of conditions were added when the MoEF gave clearance under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 (MoEF 1987b), to divert forest land for the purposes of the project. These conditions stipulated that the State governments had to report all non-forest area available for rehabilitation (by 30.11.87) and that no project-related work in forest areas would be allowed to commence till this was done; that afforestation equal to double the forest area lost would have to be raised on degraded forest land, as well as an equivalent area on non-forest land (i.e.. a total of three times the forest area lost); a plan for catchment area treatment would have to be evolved by 30.11.87; that the legal status of the land would remain unchanged and that no forest land would be utilized for the rehabilitation of oustees.
To summarize, complete plans for compensatory afforestation, catchment treatment, and rehabilitation of oustees on non-forest land were supposed to be provided by late 1987 (according to the forest clearance), or by 1989 (according to the environmental clearance). In addition, complete details on command area development, survey of flora and fauna, carrying capacity of surrounding area, seismicity, and health aspects, had to be ready by 1989 (according to the environmental clearance).
The most blatant violation of the condition regarding use of forest land for rehabilitation occurred in 1991, when about 2700 ha. of forest land in Maharashtra were released for rehabilitation in what was termed a "one-time exception". Despite this assurance, an additional 1500 ha. of forest land were again released in Maharashtra for rehabilitation of oustees in early 1994, at the insistance of none other than the Prime Minister.It is a well-known fact that none of the studies and plans required by late 1987 were submitted that year (See Morse and Berger 1992, for a detailed discussion). The 1989 deadline also passed by without any complete study or workplan being ready. This in itself is not surprising, since these deadlines were made to be broken. From a scientific viewpoint, the time frame set for the acquisition of data and completion of studies (2 years) was totally absurd. A more reasonable period would have been five to seven years. But this was not acceptable, since that would have implied postponing construction, with its attendant political and financial costs. The ingenuity of the pari passu clause (or its innocent foolhardiness?) together with the unrealistic time frame, allowed construction to proceed merrily along without any hurdles.
Thus a consensus of blindness was forged between the Central Government, concerned State governments, project authorities, and the World Bank. Everyone knew that the time-bound conditions were a charade, and that "clearance" was the all important word. Project authorities showed no urgency whatsoever in carrying out the studies, and with a nod and a wink, assigned absurd time frames for the studies they did commission.