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September 29, 1999
Narmada agitation finds echoes in European Union
Ranvir Nayar in Paris
The agitation by the Narmada Bachao Andolan against the Sardar Sarovar Project has received a major boost with ballooning support for the cause from leaders across the political spectrum in the European Union, who have come out openly against the project.
The European politicians are likely to not only lobby their own governments but might also extend their campaign to the corporations and banks involved in the project. Wolfgang Kreissl-Dorfer, a Green Party member of the European Parliament from Germany, told rediff.com in Brussels recently that sentiment against potential environmental disasters like the Narmada project was building up.
For starters, the issue will figure in the European Parliament, as a resolution expressing concern over the situation in the Narmada Valley will be moved next week. The resolution, to be moved by the Green Party, will appeal to the Indian government not to go ahead with the Sardar Sarovar Project, due to the human and environmental costs of the project.
The resolution will also call upon the European Union banks not to finance the project or companies involved in the project. It will also express open support for the people fighting the SSP.
Kreissl-Dorfer says that several MEPs are seriously concerned over the social and environmental aspects of the project. He said that his group has been in touch with MEPs from other groupings like the Socialists and the Christian Democrats and expected widespread support for the resolution during the debate on it. Parliamentarians from France, Italy, Finland, Germany and Sweden are expected to play a leading role in the campaign.
"Our main concern is that people who are affected by the project be given land of equally good quality and also monetary compensation. We believe that such Pharaonic projects are no solution to the problems. We also believe that the benefits to irrigation that will be generated from this project will be for cash crops and benefit only big landholders rather than the small farmers who are at the receiving end of the project displacement. We want to have a dialogue with the Indian government about the project," Kreissl-Dorfer said.
He says the idea of moving a resolution in the European Parliament is to inform a majority of the MEPs about the project and the role that the European governments or companies have in it. He says that European companies have to respect the same environmental standards and rules outside the EU that they have to abide by within the EU.
He says that the issue will be raised even outside the Parliament. "The new European Commission and the European Parliament will have to look much more closely over what we do with the development aid. It has so far not been done well and often the EU is paying for such projects," Kreissl-Dorfer exclaimed.
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