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Thursday 16 March 2000

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Ministry plans presentation on Narmada

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: Wary of being caught on the wrong foot, the water resources ministry is preparing a presentation, complete with slides, on the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada for the second World Water Forum meeting and ministerial conference at the Hague opening on Friday.

The ministry has reason to be prepared: Medha Patkar, the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan which has been spearheading the anti-dam agitation, is also expected to be present at the forum, making the task a wee bit difficult for water resources minister C P Thakur, who leads the government delegation. A number of representatives from the non-governmental sector also are participating in the forum's deliberations.

Thakur, who is slated to chair the session on South Asia is, however, reluctant to say much on Sardar Sarovar issue ahead of the conference because the matter is ``sub-judice.'' But he does note that in Gujarat, numerous water conservation measures have failed and at places water has to be fetched from a distance of up to 200 km. The Sardar Sarovar Project, he adds, is needed and will have to be developed.

Thakur maintains that Gujarat dam oustees are ``very happy'' with the relief and rehabilitation package provided to them by the government. Terming the compensation package ``very good,'' he hopes other states would offer similar packages to families displaced by the dam.

Water professionals, scientists and politicians from the world over will be attending the forum meeting, making it the largest gathering of its kind. The current water problems faced by various regions in the world and possible solutions are on agenda for discussions. The ministerial conference will adopt the Declaration of The Hague - an attempt to detail the steps required for reaching the goal of global water conservation, among other things.

An idea of the importance of conserving the earth's water resources may be had from the following facts:

* Around 1.4 billion people in the world live without clean drinking water.

* Nearly 2.3 billion people lack adequate sanitation.

* Rivers like the Colorado, the Nile, Yangtse and the Ganga are being polluted.



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