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Indian anti-dam activists begin fight against court order
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Wednesday, October 25, 2000

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Indian anti-dam activists begin fight against court order

MUMBAI, OCT 24: Opponents of one of the world's largest dam projects in the Indian state of Gujarat began a series of protests on Monday against a Supreme Court verdict which gave the go-ahead for its construction to begin.

"The people have decided to fight," Medha Patkar, one of India's best known activists, said.

Indian author and Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy was among those who spoke at the anti-dam meeting.

Patkar helped form the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA - Save Narmada Movement) in 1989, and has been battling the $3.9-billion Narmada dam project for more than 10 years.

About 3,000 protestors on Monday marched to the office of the state-run Narmada Valley Development Authority of Badwani.

They "buried" a copy of the Supreme Court verdict outside a local courthouse and signed an anti-dam memorandum destined for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's hands.

"This is the first mass protest after the Supreme Court decision. The protests will intensify," Patkar said. Patkar and two other activists said they would start a five-day hunger strike beginning on Wednesday in the central Indian city of Bhopal.

"The Supreme Court decision is a Black Diwali for us, our hunger-strike will highlight that," she said. Patkar, who had once threatened suicide over the dam issue, said she had not given up the idea. "I still stand by it. Once construction of the dam begins, we will intensify our protest. We will fight to the finish. We will not give up," she added.

The NBA argues that the Narmada project will displace more than 200,000 people and destroy fragile ecosystems, fertile farmland and rich forests.

Proponents of the project say it will provide drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in a drought-prone area and boost electricity generation.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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