Ogden's Claims And Some Rebuttals

Ogden's Claim: Families affected by the dam will be compensated for their homes and land. Land is available for resettlement.

RESPONSE: A 1998 report by India's premier social research institute, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, found that government lands claimed to be available for resettlement were either eroded and stony and already used by other poverty-stricken communities, or located in the submergence zone of the reservoir. The report also found that claims of private lands identified for resettlement were fictitious.

The legal framework governing resettlement in MP clearly stipulates that land lost to submergence must be compensated by grants of new lands. As of today, project authorities have not made a single person an offer of cultivable land. Instead, project authorities have tried to intimidate people to accept cash compensation by not offering them any land and committing various illegal acts like dumping stone on people's land and seizing lands arbitrarily.

Ogden's Claim: The new resettlement villages will have new roads, schools, medical, sanitation and drinking water facilities and households will have electrical connections.

RESPONSE: No new villages have been built with the amenities claimed by Ogden. Many villagers have refused to move to two of the resettlement villages, Samraj and Jalud, because of the barren lands and small house plots there. Meanwhile, construction of the dam will destroy the rich economy in the valley and flood existing agricultural fields, schools, roads and other infrastructure. The German NGO Urgewald states in their report on Maheshwar (1999) that "if compensation at replacement value [of homes, lands, existing infrastructure and sources of livelihood] would be undertaken, the project would very likely not be economically viable."

Ogden's Claim: Local people support the Maheshwar Dam and are encouraging us to finish as soon as possible.

RESPONSE: The affected people state that they are "prepared to wage a relentless struggle" against the Maheshwar Dam and are determined to "not let the dam be built at any cost." The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA - Save the Narmada Movement) has been leading the fight against dam construction on the Narmada River for more than a decade and represents tens of thousands of local people. This spring, nearly 300 elected representatives of the affected area sent Ogden a resolution opposing the project.

Over the last two years, thousands of people affected by the dam have occupied the construction site ten times and held mass demonstrations and hunger strikes opposing the project. In spring 1998, protesters barricaded roads leading to the damsite for 3 months and blocked the flow of construction material to the site.

On February 24, 2000, villagers launched an indefinite protest in front of the damsite demanding authorities to demonstrate the utility of the project and available lands for resettlement. On March 8, police beat and arrested the protesters. On April 4, 200 project affected people demonstrated outside the US Embassy in Delhi opposing Ogden's involvement in the Maheshwar Dam.

Ogden's Claim: The number of people who would be displaced by the dam has been overestimated.

RESPONSE: Recent surveys by the NBA suggest that about 35-40,000 people will be affected by the project (this figure also includes landless people who will lose their livelihoods). Independent reviews show that the official figures, which range from 2,264 to 4,000 families, are gross underestimates and based on outdated and incomplete data. The official figures also exclude thousands of people who would lose their livelihoods to the project (including landless labourers, fisherpeople, and those dependent on riverbed gravel quarrying).

Ogden's Claim: The 400 megawatts generated at Maheshwar will supply the state with peaking power to meet demand that cannot be handled by existing facilities.

RESPONSE: The project is expected to generate far less power than expected. While the project is designed to produce peaking power, nearly 80% of the project's energy generation will occur in the four monsoon months, when there is an existing surplus of power. According to project data, the average firm power expected to be generated by Maheshwar is 92 MW initially and 49 MW finally. Generation at Maheshwar is supposed to rely on water released from a massive storage reservoir upstream (the Narmada Sagar Project). This project is long delayed and unlikely to ever be completed, and this will thus reduce the amount of power expected to be produced at Maheshwar.

Independent energy analysts who participated in a Task Force on the Maheshwar project sponsored by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government estimate that its power will cost around four times the cost of power currently produced in MP and will be among the most expensive in the country. Project authorities have denied these allegations but refused to provide their own detailed estimates of power costs.

There are cheaper and more effective alternatives. The Task Force also recommended that work on the Maheshwar dam be halted and a fresh analysis of costs and benefits undertaken to establish the viability of the project. It suggested various alternatives including demand-management measures, biomass generation, optimum use of oil-based plants and existing dams, and micro-hydro plants. In March 1999, the Central Power Minister, Mr. Kumaramangalam, made an offer of significantly cheaper power to the state of Madhya Pradesh from the Cepa project in Orissa.

Ogden's Claim: This project will provide people with an important new source of clean energy.

RESPONSE: The energy from Maheshwar Dam will not be "clean." Dams block fish migration and alter the natural pattern of floods and sediment flows. Because dams trap a river's flow, dams foul river water in numerous ways, affecting its chemistry, temperature, and turbidity (sediment load). These hydrological, chemical and physical changes have serious impacts on riverine and floodplain flora and fauna which are adapted to the natural characteristics of the river. The specific environmental impacts of the Maheshwar project are not known because no comprehensive environmental assessment exists. This is a violation of both Indian and international standards for dam projects.