Experts rule out submergence, MP town relieved
BHOPAL, JANUARY 7:
For many in Madhya Pradesh, development brings up images of
the Sardar Sarovar Project and displacement. Harsud town’s
story could probably change that.
Living under the dread of
submergence since the Supreme Court cleared the way for the
Narmada Tribunal Award, the 25,000-odd residents of the town
in Khandwa district have just heard that it
will be saved.
The experts of National Hydro
Power Corporation (NHPC) believe there is a way to ensure
that the people of Harsud and 100 other villages do not meet
the fate of those of 200-odd other villages, which will be
totally submerged once the Indira Sagar Reservoir comes up.
‘‘After a detailed survey,
we have found that the town is situated on the edge of the
reservoir and not the centre,’’ NHPC Managing Director Yogendra
Prasad informs. ‘‘We can save it by building a guide bund
Instead of spelling its doom,
the project may eventually turn out to be a boon for the residents
of Harsud. A centre of anti-dam activities, the town has been
seeing little development work for the past few years, with
people even stopping repairs of homes expecting these to washed
away. Now, that could change.
‘‘Since a 900 sq km area reservoir
shall be near Harsud, the location of the town shall become
like Bhopal’s, with tremendous potential for natural development
of forests, fisheries, water sports and tourism,’’ Prasad
In fact, he adds, the Indira
Sagar Reservoir will be 40 times bigger than the Bhopal lake.
‘‘You can imagine what that will do to the town’s social and
Protection of towns with guide
bunds is not new. Prasad gives examples of London and Amsterdam
in Europe and Delhi and Lucknow nearer home to prove this.
Holland’s capital Amsterdam
lies below sea level, but it has been protected and saved
for 300 years by means of guide bunds. These have also protected
London from Thames for 200 years. Similar bunds on both sides
have protected Delhi from Yamuna for over 100 years and Lucknow
from river Gomti for 50 years.
Prasad, who is also chairman
of the Narmada Hydroelectric Corporation (NHDC) — a joint
venture of the Madhya Pradesh government and NHPC — said a
preliminary survey showed that Harsud could be saved from
inundation by constructing a guide bund on 40 per cent of
its circumference. The remaining would be adjoining high grounds.
Besides sparing people the
pain of rehabilitation, the construction of guide bunds is
also expected to save the government Rs 150 crore it would
have otherwise spent on replacement and resettlement. Prasad
says this could translate into a reduction in the rate charged
for electricity produced by the Indira Sagar Project.
The save Harsud plan also
envisages construction of two concrete tanks to ensure 24-hour
drinking water supply to the town. Besides, Harsud will be
connected to a railway station by a 15-km, double-lane metal
road and another road would be provided in place of the existing
rail route joining it to Khirkhiya village.
‘‘This will give a boost to
Harsud’s business and economic activities,’’ the NHDC Chairman
He further points out that
under the Madhya Pradesh government’s resettlement and rehabilitation
policy, project affected people have the right to grow crops
on land rendered available by depletion of water level in
the reservoir. Prasad believes that with water available,
and with land being free for four-eight months here, agricultural
production on it could shoot up two-three times.
The NHDC has now accelerated
work on the project, which has been stalled for 10 years,
almost ever since it was set up in August 2000.
‘‘Our target is to commission India Sagar by March 2001. We’ll
start generating 500 MW power by that time and add another
500 MW worth of generation in the next year,’’ says Prasad.