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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : 'US agency pulling out of Maheswar project'

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Thursday, December 14, 2000


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'US agency pulling out of Maheswar project'

By Our Staff Correspondent

BHOPAL, DEC. 13. The Narmada Bachao Andolan today revealed that the US power utility, Ogden Energy Group, is the fourth to withdraw from its commitment to fund 49 per cent of its equity in the Maheshwar hydro-electric project thereby jeopardising the future of this ``controversial'' project.

Addressing a Press conference here today, the NBA leader, Mr. Alok Agrawal, said the withdrawal of Ogden is only the latest event in the checkered history of the Maheshwar project and the long line of investors who have deserted this flawed project being implemented by S. Kumar's in the private sector. In 1998 and then 1999, as a consequence of the people's struggle and the strength of the issues being raised by it, first, the US power utility Paegen and then the German power utilities, Bayernwerk and VEW Energie, withdrew from the Maheshwar project, he told newsmen.

It may also be recalled, he said, that in June this year, a team of international experts commissioned by the Development Ministry of the German Government visited the Narmada valley and came out with a report that sharply indicted the project particularly from the rehabilitation aspect. Subsequently, Siemens was compelled to withdraw its application for an export guarantee from the German Government and a proposed loan of Rs. 5,700 millions from a German bank fell through.

Earlier in March this year, during the visit of the US President, Mr. Bill Clinton, Ogden representatives, who had travelled as part of the corporate entourage, had signed a Letter of Intent with the private promoters of the Maheshwar project, Mr. Agrawal told newsmen adding that the Memorandum expressed the intention to put in 49 per cent of the total equity of the project making them the strategic investor.

Mr. Agrawal said the residents of Narmada valley had responded to this first by protesting in front of senior officers of Ogden as they flew into the dam site and then by demonstrating at the US embassy in New Delhi. Protests followed at Calcutta and also in Washington DC, Mr. Agrawal said adding that the Ogden decision to withdraw from the Maheshwar project has not been formally announced but has been confirmed by some company insiders.

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