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The Hindu on : Construction plan ratified

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Thursday, January 11, 2001

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Construction plan ratified

By Gargi Parsai

NEW DELHI, JAN.10. The Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority - the political apex body - today ratified the schedule for construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada set by the Authority, but did not agree on some ``contentious issues'' and decided to meet again.

Even as Gujarat planned to hasten the construction Madhya Pradesh disagreed on some of the major points under discussion, particularly construction of an irrigation bypass tunnel below draw down level and payment of dues to Gujarat. Later, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister told The Hindu that he had asked for a meeting to be convened by the Prime Minister to resolve the issues on which there were differences. He said the bypass tunnel below minimum water level was ``not acceptable''.

However, Madhya Pradesh, did not raise its earlier demand for restricting the height of the dam so as to lower the area under submergence and consequently reduce the number of people to be displaced. Instead, it concurred with the decision today to notify people to be displaced about land acquisition at the final height of 455 feet or 138 metres.

The review meeting, chaired by the Union Water Resources Minister, Mr. Arjun Sethi, was attended by the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Mr. T.R. Balu, the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Keshubhai Patel, Mr. Digvijay Singh, the Maharashtra Minister for Irrigation, Mr. Balasaheb Thorat. The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr. Ashok Gehlot, did not attend due to ill-health.

Interestingly, the Ministry of Welfare, which monitors the resettlement and rehabilitation of the dam-affected people went totally unrepresented at this crucial meeting. Neither the Minister, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, nor the Secretary, Ministry of Welfare, Mrs. Asha Das, who chairs the Sub-Committee on Rehabilitation and Resettlement, were invited.

The Review Committee meeting assumes significance as it is the first to be held after the Supreme Court decision on reconstruction of the dam on October 18, 2000. The apex court has directed that the Review Committee meet every three months.

The schedule proposed by the Narmada Control Authority - an official-level body chaired by the Water Resources Secretary - as part of an Action Plan had stipulated completion of the project by 2005.

The plan says that the dam height could be raised from the present 90 m to 100 m by June 2002, to 110 m by June 2003, to 121 m by June 2004 and to the final elevation of 138.68 mm by June 2005. All rehabilitation and resettlement should be completed six months before the raising of the height, by December 2001, 2002, 2003 and December 2004 respectively.

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