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Nation 
 

Govt to counter anti-dam ‘propaganda’
Hemendra Singh Bartwal (New Delhi, March 9)

CONCERNED AT the adverse international publicity it has attracted on the issue of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), the Government is now planning to go on the offensive to counter the anti-dam activists’ “propaganda” at world fora and highlight its own stand on the matter.

Accordingly, a high-profile delegation of the Indian Government, led by Water Resources Minister C P Thakur himself, will head for The Hague in the Netherlands next week where it will put up a strong defence of its position at the prestigious World Water Forum meet. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar is slated to present the anti-dam viewpoint.

“We are going to fight it out. Point by point, we will reply to the objections raised by Ms Patkar and her supporters against the SSP and explain to the world where they are wrong in their perceptions. The Minister has decided to take an aggressive stand as he feels that this Ministry has so far never been able to convey the actual position on the dam issue to the people at large,” said a senior official of the Water Resources Ministry.

Several top officials of the Ministry will be accompanying Mr Thakur to the meet and the team has made elaborate preparations to present a strong case in support of the project which has been long delayed due to staunch opposition from the NBA and other environmental activists.

Such is the significance being attached to the event that a separate official delegation is being sent to it by the Government of Gujarat, where the Sardar Sarovar dam is located. This will be headed by state Irrigation Minister Jainarain Vyas.

The government delegations will strive to clear ‘misconcepts’ and wrong notions about the project. It will emphasise before the gathering of international experts the fact that beside the developmental benefits accruing from it by way of irrigation and power generation , its early completion was also vital for supply of drinking water to drought-hit areas of Rajasthan and Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat.

During the four-day deliberations at the meet which begins from March 16, presentations will be made by eminent experts, environmentalists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and officials from various countries on different issues related to water resources management, including its social and environmental impact.

Their recommendations will be further discussed at a high-level inter-ministerial meet on March 21 and 22, an official said. During this, Dr Thakur will raise the SSP dam issue and its ramifications.

Among the prominent members of the Indian delegation will be Minister of State for Water Resources Bijoya Chakravarty, Water Resources Secretary Z. Hasan and the chairman of the National Water Development Authority P. Lau.


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