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The Hindu on : Narmada: President's intervention sought

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Tuesday, August 17, 1999

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Narmada: President's intervention sought

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, AUG. 16. A delegation of the National Alliance for People's Movements (NAPM) has met the President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan, and sought his intervention on the Narmada Valley issue.

The delegation comprising Mr. Kuldip Nayar, former judge, Mr. Ram Bhushan Mehrotra, Commander (Rtd.) T. S. Sinha and the national convener of the NAPM, Vimalbhai, submitted a memorandum apprising the President of the present position on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) and other dams conceived in the Narmada valley.

Mr. Sinha, who had recently visited the valley with the ``Rally for the Valley'', reportedly told the President that a ``serious security problem was in the making as those in possession of rich cultivable land could never be expected to give them up, while the hopes of the people in Gujarat had been built up to such an unrealistic extent that both sides were prepared to sacrifice themselves to protect their lands and their rights.''

Mr. Nayar pointed out that the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) and the Supreme Court had both directed that the rehabilitation and resettlement process must be completed prior to proceeding with the construction of the dam.

Mr. Mehrotra said during the public hearing early this year in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra, in which he was the Chairman, it was stated by farmers who had already been shifted out without allocation of land that the land allotted to them was actually not available. Some of the land allotted to them was in reality already occupied by local tribals since decades and they were not willing to make way for the new allottees.

The memorandum said that in March this year, the people of the valley along with officials had carried out an inspection of the land said to be available for resettlement, but in effect there were no such land. This was later admitted by officials as well. The Madhya Pradesh Government had recently reported in the minutes of the 44th meeting of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub-Group of the Narmada Control Authority (held on June, 1999) that they did not have land to resettle oustees who were already affected by the increased height of the SSP and who wished to resettle in M.P.

Mr. Nayar pointed out that both the M.P. Government and the people of Kutch had filed cases in the Supreme Court on the SSP. While the M.P. Government has sought a new tribunal to review the SSP, the Kutch petition has questioned the justification of the project saying that it will solve the water problems of Saurashtra and Kutch.

The President was told of the M.P. Government's proposal to restrict the height of the SSP not only to reduce the consequent area under submergence but also due to other aspects such as reduced water yield, preservation of environment etc. Madhya Pradesh has claimed that such a reduction was possible even while maintaining the requisite water supply to Gujarat. It was pointed out that local schemes to recharge tanks, jheels, wells and valley reservoirs in Saurashtra and Kutch would raise the water table and provide irrigation and drinking water and prevent ingress of sea water. The memorandum said that due to the failure of the rehabilitation programme and the total non-availability of land to resettle oustees, the people of the valley, especially those affected by the fresh construction of the dam had no choice but to resort to ``satyagraha'' at the submergence villages.

Earlier, the former Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral L. Ramdas had also written to the President drawing his attention to the situation in the valley.

Meanwhile, Mr. Alok Agrawal of the Narmada Bachao Andolan denied reports in a section of the press today that activists had demolished a building under construction at a site proposed for resettlement of village Behgaon which is slated to be submerged by the controversial Maheshwar dam in M.P. which has been contracted out to a private firm. According to them, the allegation made by the private company was not supported even in the report of the local Administration.

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