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After six years comes SC verdict -- Go ahead, build the Narmada dam
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After six years comes SC verdict -- Go ahead, build the Narmada dam

NEW DELHI, OCTOBER 18: In a setback to the campaign against big dams and to celebration by the governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the Supreme Court today allowed further construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat subject to environmental and rehabilitation clearances.

Disposing of the petition filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan six years ago, the judgment delivered by Justice B N Kirpal and supported by Chief Justice of India Dr A S Anand, said that the dam shall be built as envisaged by the Narmada Tribunal's award given way back in 1979.

``Construction of the dam will continue as per the award of the tribunal keeping in mind the cost economics of the project,'' the court added.

There was however a 2-1 split on the bench as Justice S P Bharucha gave a dissenting verdict and said that the construction should not be resumed till there was a fresh consideration of the environmental and rehabilitation aspects of the project.

As per the majority decision, the height of the dam can be raised from the present level of 88m to 90m as per the schedule that will be drawn by the Construction Advisory Committee of Narmada Control Authority (NCA).

But any construction beyond 90m will be subject to further clearance from time to time by the NCA, which in turn will take into account the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation measures by the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The full reservoir level (FRL) envisaged by the tribunal is 138m.

Taking an overview of the relief and rehabilitation measures, the court said: ``The report of the grievance redressal authority had pointed out that in Madhya Pradesh there is considerable slack in identifying and acquiring land for the oustees.''

The Narmada Bachao Andolan, the NGO led by Medha Patkar challenged in 1994 the construction of Rs 18,000-crore Sardar Sarovar dam project on the ground that the tribal oustees were not rehabilitated properly and environmental damages of such a dam would be huge.

``The environmental sub-group in the ministry of environment and forest will consider all aspects before giving clearance to construction at each stage beyond 90m,'' the court ruled.

It directed the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to implement the award of the tribunal expeditiously for proper relief and rehabilitation of oustees.

The NCA will draw up a plan within four weeks on the relief and rehabilitation work needed to be carried out. Any dispute on this shall go before the review committee, the court said and added that if any dispute still remained, it shall be referred to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whose decision shall be final and binding.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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