An upstart has arrived on the scene to challenge the claim of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to being the sole voice of the people of the Narmada Valley, the site of the Narmada dam project. The newcomer, however, sings a different tune.
Another environmental group, called the Nimar Sarvoday Manch or Nimar Welfare Forum, has arrived on the scene and flung the gauntlet down to the NBA on its own turf. The NBA has been campaigning against the multi-purpose Narmada dam, which includes a
number of irrigation and hydro-electricity projects, on the grounds that it would displace tens of thousands of people and harm the environment.
The NSM is challenging the NBA’s arguments. When a member of the National Commission for Women, Sayeda Hamid, recently visited Pathrad village, a stronghold of the NBA, the NSM rallied its pro-dam supporters and submitted an eight-point memorandum
supporting the construction of the 400-MW Maheshwar dam. Among other things, the NSM charged that construction of the dam was being opposed by big landlords of the region, who are not losing any land in the project.
“It is also being brought to your notice that the people whose lands are affected by the submergence are not at all opposing the project since they are happy with the liberal compensation being offered by the project, and this is substantiated by the
offers from 75 per cent of the affected landholders,” said the memorandum. NSM spokesman Umesh Goswami alleged that the NBA had only thwarted the development of the region with the campaign against the Narmada project.
Even otherwise, the NBA’s agitation against mega-projects in the Narmada Valley has been flagging as the projects are steadily progressing. The agitation has always attracted attention, and it acquired added celebrity value when Booker prize winner
Arundhati Roy stepped into it.
However, neither the inter-state Sardar Sarovar Project nor the Maheshwar Project, promoted by textile giant S. Kumar’s, have been stalled because of the NBA’s opposition.(India Abroad News Service)