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UPDATE PRESS RELEASE ON MAHESHWAR

12 MAY 1998

PEOPLE'S CHECKPOINTS EFFECTIVELY STOP MACHINE - MATERIALS-HUMAN FLOW TO DAM SITE

PEOPLE PREPARE TO RELAUNCH STRUGGLE

Since 8 May 1998, the people of the Maheshwar affected area have stepped up their struggle by setting up "janata ka naka" (people's checkpoints) on the routes leading to the dam site. These checkpoints, where between 30-50 men and women are maintaining continuous vigil, have successfully reduced to an trickle the flow of machinery, materials and labour to the dam site, and the work on the dam site too has slowed down. The State has responded, as expected, by bringing in more police to the area.

Four such check points had been set up on the 8th of May, which have been increased to 7 from today. The poeple are in a fighting mood, and are preparing to re-launch their struggle in full force. The state has meanwhile, started bringing in a large number of police, who are coming in everyday. The numbers are to be yet estimated.

Meanwhile, the Chief Minster of MP, Shri Digvijay Singh cancelled his scheduled visit to the project area and his meetings with the affected people in what can be seen as a bowing down to the pressures of the strong lobby of the project promoters, S.Kumars. He gave no explanation for the cancellation. Instead, he expressed his inability to come, and suggested that the people come to Indore city, about 3 hrs away to meet him. The people politely but firmly refused this, saying it is important for him to come to the site and see the situation for himself.

It may be noted that the NBA was going to present the "International Declaration of Support to the Maheshwar Struggle" to the CM on his visit to the site. This declaration, endorsed by 186 environment, human rights, women's and labour organizations from India and 35 other countries, shows the enormous support to the struggle from all over the world.

In an important statement, the Vice President of Oregon, US -based PacifiCorp Development Company, announced that his company "do not intend to participate further in the [Maheshwar] project". Quinn continues that if PacifiCorp were to reevaluate the project in the future, "it would only be under the condition that the needs of the mass of affected people be properly addressed and consensus regarding how the Project proceeds is reached by all stakeholders, including Narmada Bachao Andolan."

PacifiCorp had been expected to hold or underwrite nearly half the shares in the project company through PacGen, a subsidiary. Recently, PacifiCorp sold off PacGen, but it has retained all overseas interests of PacGen including MAheshwar. S.Kumars has been all the while conveying - indirectly as also directly through their website - that PacGen is still involved.

It may be recollected that the occupation of the dam site at Maheshwar was suspended from 24 April by the people after two consecutive days of powerful struggle, and severe repression. This was done in order that the issue which caught the national and international attention due to the severe state repression, could be fully explained to the people outside the valley, before the struggle is continued. The people are now ready and eager to re-launch the struggle, after the enormous show of national and international support.

Shripad Dharmadhikary
Narmada Bachao Andolan
Ph.& Fax : +91-265-38 22 32
Email : nba@lwbdq.lwbbs.net