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'SC failed to look into the environmental problem'

R Ramaswamy Iyer, former water secretary, was part of the committee set up in 1993 by the Supreme Court to look into various aspects of the Narmada dam. He tells Jitendra Verma that the SC has missed an important opportunity to lay down stringent rules for the future

New Delhi, October 20

What do you think about the Supreme Court
verdict on the Narmada dam?

I have not read the judgement. I only read it in media
and I must say that I am very much disappointed. I never expected that the Supreme Court would stop the project but I was hopeful that the apex court would lay down serious, stringent rules and effective machinery so that rehabilitation and environment issues are taken care of. Now that the project has been given the go-ahead, the priority will be given to the project, not the people. I think the Supreme Court has totally missed the opportunity to lay down stringent rules for the future.

The Supreme Court had ordered to set up a
review committee to look into the resettlement
and rehabilitation (R& R) aspects? What happened to the report?

In1993, the Supreme Court had set up a five-member committee. The members were L C Jain, then IGNOU vice-chancellor; V V Kulandiaswamy, an eminent scientist; Vasant Gowtrikar, member, Planning Commission; Jayant Patil and myself. We were not supposed to see whether the dam should be there or not. We were supposed to look into various aspects alleged by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in their public interest litigation (PIL), which focus on environment and rehabilitation. We submitted the report to the government.

"There were serious problems with the rehabilitation packages. We submitted our recommendations and the
shortcomings in
the report"

What shortcomings did
you report?

I don't recall all that off hand.
But the shortcomings were there. There were serious problems with the rehabilitation packages.We submitted our recommendations and the shortcomings in
the report.

What happened then?
The Supreme Court asked for a supplementary report and ordered especially to look into four aspects. We were not given enough time. We submitted our first report in March 1995 and they asked us to submit the second report by April 1995.

The four aspects were: First, hydrology. The controversy regarding the flow of water in river Narmada. There were some anomalies. Second, the height of the dam. At
that time the Madhya Pradesh Government had said
that if the height is reduced from 485 ft to 436 ft, the submergence will be less. Apart from that, we were told to look into the environmental and rehabilitation aspects. We completed the report within the time provided to us
to the Supreme Court.

Sonia Gandhi
Chhota Rajan

Sushmita Sen

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