International Rivers Network
Friends of the Narmada

PRESS RELEASE                                                                                 August 23, 2000

Five Arrested on Way to Rally Against Sardar Sarovar Dam

US-based Friends of the Narmada and International Rivers Network have written a letter to the Gujarat state government to denounce the arrests yesterday of 5 Indian activists. An activist with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) and 4 supporters were arbitrarily detained on their way to attend a rally in Domkhedi village against the Sardar Sarovar Project.

Hundreds of policemen have been deployed by the Gujarat government to prevent activists and supporters from reaching the Narmada Satyagraha sites in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh states. The government has threatened to detain any who try to attend the scheduled public hearing and Saga of Narmada program. The Satyagraha is part of a long series of non-violent protests by the adivasi (indigenous) communities and activists of the Narmada Valley who are to be seriously affected by the dam, irrigation canal and associated infrastructure.

The arrests are the latest in a series of measures used to suppress dissent over the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project. Last summer, massive police blockades were set up in Gujarat to prevent villagers from attending the Rally for the Valley. In 1998, the Gujarat government pressured the central government to ban a planned meeting of the World Commission on Dams. Under this atmosphere of official repression, the NBA office was ransacked on Dec 8, 1999.

In the letter to the Gujarat government, Friends of the Narmada and International Rivers Network strongly condemn such draconian measures and demand the immediate withdrawal of the deployed police forces and the release of all people detained in this manner. We demand that the Government of Gujarat respect the fundamental rights of its citizens and desist from arbitrary use of police forces in an attempt to deny the NBA and its supporters their unalienable right to freedom. In the interests of preserving the rights of the people of the Narmada Valley we demand that further construction on the SSP be halted and that proposals for alternatives be considered with the seriousness they deserve.

The Sardar Sarovar Project would displace nearly half a million people if completed. For over a decade, the NBA has led the fight to stop dams on the Narmada. The NBA succeeded in forcing the World Bank and Japanese government to withdraw from the project in the early 90s. The Indian Supreme Court is expected to issue its final ruling on the case in the next few months.

For more information contact:

Patrick McCully, International Rivers Network
Tel. +1 510 848 1155
Fax. +1 510 848 1008

Venu Govindu, Friends of the Narmada
Tel. +1 609 951 2823