Children of Narmada Valley March against Death & Destruction

The children of the Narmada Valley are travelling to Delhi to meet the President of India. This is to demand that the homes, schools and fields of the villages of Narmada Valley, which are threatened to be submerged by the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSP), be saved.

SSP is a gigantic project, one among 3165 dams planned on river Narmada and her tributaries. The Supreme Court verdict of Oct. 2000 has spelled a death knell for the valley and the 16-year-old struggle of the people has reached a penultimate stage. People have opposed the dam for it's serious environmental impacts and devastative displacement of over half a million people. People have stressed that sustainable, people oriented alternatives are possible, but they are being ignored and suppressed. The minimum the people are asking is proper rehabilitation of all the affected and a complete review of the cost-benefit of the project, in the context of available information and studies, before furthering the construction.

Raising the height of the dam from 85 to 93 mts. (including the 3 mts. of humps) has put at least 5000 families, 11 Jeevan Shalas and the entire tribal belt in danger of submergence without any provision for rehabilitation, in this monsoon. Out of over 44,000 families to be affected by the reservoir less than 20 % have been relocated in last 20 years. Many displaced some 10 years back have uncultivable, less or no agricultural land at all. It has been demonstrated time and again that rehabilitation of all the people affected by the dam is impossible. Forcing people out of their homes and villages, without ensuring rehabilitation is not just illegal, but utterly inhuman.

Along with the men and women of the Narmada valley children have always been integral part of the struggle and effort to challenge injustice and save the valley from devastation. This monsoon brings the threat of submerging Jeevan Shalas (schools set up in the Valley with local expertise and innovative syllabus - started and run by the Andolan) The Jeevan Shalas symbolize the Valley's aspiration for sustainable and equitable society; hope for the future... It is in this context that the `Jeevan Yatra' of the children becomes significant. The children of `Jeevan Shalas' will travel from the Satyagraha venues to Delhi proclaiming their right to childhood, education and life itself. The children will invite the President of India to visit the valley and see for himself the truth. They will present him children's manifesto together with a basket of life containing symbolic representation of all that the valley holds dear, and may lose forever.

Some Photographs from the Jeevan Shalas

The Yatra will start from Kasaravat (MP), to be flagged off by Baba Amte. Travelling via Indore, Bhopal, Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh) and Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), the Yatra will reach Delhi and return to the valley via Jaipur, Bisalpur and Udaipur (Rajasthan). The children will take the following route: Indore (Aug 16th) - Bhopal (Aug 18th) - Guna (19th) - Gwalior (20th) - Murena (21st) - Delhi / Mathura / Agra (22-24th) - Jaipur (26th) - Bisalpur (28th) - Udaipur (28th).

These children are representatives of hundreds and thousands of children from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat states of the Narmada valley, who have refused to accept injustice and forced displacement in the name of development. They want development - schools, health care and other civic amenities in their own villages. They want healthy environment and united village communities in order to enjoy their childhood, to learn and grow like all other children. Are they asking for too much? Is it not our responsibility to ensure childhood and happiness for children who have made us aware of the destruction and cruelty in the name of 'development'?

The struggle of the people of the valley asserting their right over resources, their livelihood and hopes is our struggle too. Let us give these children, our own a helping hand. Please be with us in this journey for life, against death, injustice and destruction.

You can:

  • Join the children in this march.
  • Visit the Narmada valley and join the Satyagraha.
  • Write to the President and Prime Minister, asking them to intervene.
  • Reach out and appeal to children in your villages, towns and cities to express solidarity with the children in the Narmada Valley.
  • Support the Narmada Jeevan Shalas by giving time, expertise, monetary and educational resources.

Giridhar Vasave
Keval Singh
Shobha Wagh
Hiraman Yadav