70 `rescued' from SSP villages; police looking for Medha
By A Staff Reporter
AHMEDABAD: The rising waters of Narmada are "perilously close" to the "satyagraha" sites at Jalsindhi and Domkhedi in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively, according to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. This is because of heavy downpour in catchment areas and release of water from dams upstream of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Meanwhile, the superintendent of police in Nandurbar in Maharashtra Vasant Koregaonkar said 70 persons had been "rescued" from Peepal Chowk near Domkhedi after the police went there looking for the NBA leader Medha Patkar. He said the police were still looking for Ms Patkar. "They (NBA) are keeping her location a secret," he said over telephone.
Water has started rising since Thursday in the Narmada valley as the heavy rain in the upper catchments and releases from the Bargi, Tawa and Barna dams started accumulating behind the partially constructed dam of the SSP, according to NBA spokesperson Nandini Oza.
At about 5.00 pm on Thursday, the lowest house in the valley, of Noorjie Samariya at village Pipalchop (Maharashtra), was hardly 2 meters above the water level.
Water since then has been rising steadily at the rate of about six inches an hour and it is estimated that several huts and many fields of the people in the valley may have already been affected. The NBA tried to establish contact with some of these villages on Friday but could not get any news till 3 pm.
Ms Oza said the senior activists and village representatives have taken position in different villages in the submergence zone in the valley to be with the people and strengthen their hands. Hundreds of people are walking down the Satpuras and Vindhyas for 3-5 hours to reach the Satyagraha centres, spread across the valley. Many are coming from Nimad in Madhya Pradesh to join the people at this decisive time.
The NBA had launched a "satyagraha" in the valley on June 20, with several hundred villagers along with senior activists staying at the satyagraha centres in Jalsindhi and Domkhedi prepared to face rising Narmada behind the partially constructed Sardar Sarovar dam. The height of the dam was raised from 80.3 meters to 88 meters this year.
The NBA has claimed that about 2000 families who have been affected by this increase in height of the dam have not been resettled because the government does not have land for them. These families have also been challenging the project itself, on the grounds of rehabilitation and also on the ground that the project is not in national interest.
While the satyagraha centres are in Jalsindhi and Domkhedi villages to put the issue in focus, the satyagraha is spread across 50 villages where 2,000-odd families are staying put, the spokesperson said This is the second time, the NBA said, that the submergence of houses is taking place in the valley this year. On August 10-11, water had risen and flooded fields and houses. The satyagrahis then had stayed in waist deep waters for more than 14 hours, before the police arrested them. In Pipalchop village (Maharashtra) the house in which the people had assembled collapsed due to floods.