Press Note 20 January, 1998
Indefinite Fast Against Maheshwar Dam From January 26
Occupation of Dam Site Continues
In a major step to intensify the ongoing agitation by the thousand of villagers against the controversial Maheshwar Hydel Power Project in the Narmada Valley, indefinite fast will be launched from January 26 demanding a complete stoppage of work on the project and a comprehensive, participatory review.
This was declared on the Maheshwar dam site today which has been virtually captured by thousands of the affected farmers, labourers since January 11. The occupation continued today for the tenth day, with over 3500 men, women and children camping out in the bitter cold, turning the dam site into the "Sangharsh Gaon" (Village of Struggle). According to their declaration for further intensification of the agitation, the people resolved to launch indefinite fast by five representatives of the villagers and activists in the Maheshwar dam area and from other parts of the Valley. Earlier, the NBA had warned the state government, in a meeting with the High Powered Committee to Monitor Maheshwar Project headed by Dy. Cm Subhash Yadav on 15 January that it will intensify the agitation if it fails to accede to the people's demand for a review of the dam, its cost benefits, displacement, privatization and other aspects.
Meanwhile, the villagers, their supporters from all over the valley and from various parts of the country are pouring in the "Sangharsh Gaon" on the tenth day also. Yesterday , noted educationists Dr. Krishna Kumar and Jyotibhai Desai, supporters from Hoshnagabad, Malegoan came to the occupation site and expressed solidarity with the struggle. On the other hand, hundreds of labourers and the machinery brought there by the contractor is being evacuated by the contractor since last three days. The dam site has become a "Sangharsh Teertha" (Pilgrimage of the struggle) said Medha Patkar when she was at the dam site.
A number of trade unions in Indore have also expressed their solidarity to the struggle and are going to demonstrate outside the office of S.Kumars in Indore, which is the private company to whom the contract for building the dam and operating it has been give.
It may be recollected that the Maheshwar Hydropower project is a 400 MW power station, consisting of a dam on the main Narmada river coming up in village Jalood and Lepa near Mandleshwar. (The project is about 10 kms upstream of the historical pilgrimage centre of Maheshwar) . It is Development Project, which consists of 30 major, 135 medium and 3000 "small" da Narmada river and its tributaries. The project, dubbed as run-of-the river will spread over 61 villages. About 2200 families would be affected.
On Jan. 11, 1998, over 25,000 people from the affected villages had taken over the dam site and have announced a indefinite occupation till their demands of stoppage of work and total review of the project are met. The people are not only challenging the project on the grounds of impossibility of rehabilitation and environmental impacts, but also on the grounds of non-viability, and that the project has been given to a private company at extremely liberal terms and that the price of power from the project will be very high.
The people have indicated that this is also a fight against the anti-people new economic policy which is based on privatization and globalisation, especially in the power sector.
For, Narmada Bachao Andolan.