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Press Release/4 Nov. 1998

TASK FORCE REPORT ON MAHESHWAR HYDROPOWER PROJECT CALLS FOR A NEW COST
BENEFIT ANALYSIS . WORK NOT TO START TILL THIS AND OTHER CONDITIONS FULFILLED
S.KUMARS AND MPEB MAKING MISLEADING STATEMENTS TO GET FINANCIAL CLOSURE
 

The Task Force appointed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to review and suggest alternatives for the Narmada Valley Projects in Madhya Pradesh has submitted its Final Draft Report on the Maheshwar Hydropower Project to the Government. This report has called for, inter alia, a fresh cost benefit analysis of the project, including the alternatives, and has said that work should not begin unless these and other conditions are fulfilled.

The statements appearing in the press recently, issued by S.Kumars, the project promoters and Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board (MPEB) implying that the Task Force has given clearance to the Project and that the work will start soon, are misleading, and made with the possible intention of securing financial closure, which the project still has not been able to secure.

The details are as below.

The Report of the Task Force on Maheshwar was submitted by its Chair as a "Draft Final" report to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in the last week of October 1998. Even though it is called a "Draft Report" the Report was a Final report in the sense that it has gone through at least two rounds of comments by all the members. Only fine tuning of the report has to be done. Also, the Task Force's Report on rest of the Narmada Valley is still to be submitted, and the Maheshwar report would be integrated into it. For all practical purposes, however, this is the Final report.

MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS

The recommendations of the Task Force are given below.

"(In the light of the preceding discussion,) the task force recommends that the following steps be taken before considering resumption of work of Maheshwar Project:
 

  1. Cost benefit analysis be computed again on the lines suggested above.
  2. If the fresh computation also shows greater benefits than cost, a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation programme strictly following the rehabilitation policy as being demanded by the Government of M.P. for Sardar Sarovar from the Government of Gujarat be prepared in a participatory manner by involving the representatives nominated by the affected families;
  3. This comprehensive plan should specifically indicate the feasibility of R&R in accordance with the policy particularly availability of land for allotment to the oustees and resettlement of the villages as communities.
  4. If the model R&R plan is found the feasible implementation be initiated in an exemplary manner as recommended above with full participation of the affected families.
  5. The rehabilitation and resettlement must be done in such a manner that rehabilitation and resettlement of families likely to be affected during monsoon of any forthcoming year should be settled definitely, fully, finally and satisfactorily by 31st December of the preceding year without compromise on R&R policy approved.
  6. All the conditions imposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India while giving clearance of the project be complied with both in letter and spirit for monitoring which an effective mechanism be evolved.

Only after the above steps are taken, it would be possible to go ahead with construction of the Maheshwar Project which the task force feels has more modest submergence and displacement compared to many other projects."

In the Report, a detailed discussion on the alternatives has been presented, and the new cost benefits analysis to be computed would have to include an assessment and comparison of all the alternatives.

A most serious finding of the Task Force was that :

"(Hence,) we came to the conclusion that at present adequate land area has not been identified to enable allotment to all affected families".

and,

"It was the stand of many members that there is no comprehensive plan of R&R prepared for the Maheshwar Project. The representatives of the MPEB also agreed that while there is some plan, it is not a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation of all the affected families as per the rehabilitation policy."

It may be noted that the Project authorities are claiming that there is a full plan, and that land is available. Also important to note is that MPEB is the agency contracted by the project to undertake the rehabilitation.

NBA STAND VINDICATED

These recommendations of the Task Force clear vindicate all that the NBA has been saying, and demanding regarding the project. In sum, NBA has been saying that the project has a flawed cost/benefit analysis, and there is a need to re-look at this, including several cheaper and better alternatives suggested by it and some experts. NBA has also been pointing out that there is no rehabilitation plan, nor is there enough land available for resettlement of the project affected people. There have been serious violations of basic human rights and the rehabilitation policy in case of even the few people who have been displaced so far.

MPEB AND S.KUMARS DISTORT THE TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS

As soon as the Task Force report was submitted, the Government issued an Order based on the report. It is indicative of the enormous pressures that the Private company is bringing on to the Government that this order deleted the most important and significant of the recommendations - that of a new cost/benefit analysis. It just said that the C/B analysis is not required as the project already has techno-economic clearance from CEA. This was a complete distortion of the Task Force report as the Task Force had given this recommendation knowing that the project had techno-economic clearance but it still felt that the new C/B is required.

Based on this Government Order, S.Kumars is now saying that the project has secured all clearances, and it will soon start construction.

This too is a distortion, as even the other conditions have to be fulfilled yet. Information from sources reveal, however, that the real interest of S.Kumars in issuing these statements and to get the Government Order issued is to use these to secure the financial closure of the project. In other words, it is to be used to mislead the financiers of the project also.

NBA'S WARNING

The NBA has warned the Government of Madhya Pradesh that it will not take such distortions of the Task Force Report lying down, and has demanded that the Government immediately withdraw the Order and issue a new Order requiring the fulfillment of the conditions set by the Task Force, which includes the condition that no work should be allowed till these conditions are fulfilled.

NBA has also warned that if the Company tries to re-start the work on the project, it will launch a massive agitation at the project site.

It may be re-called that the Task Force was constituted after a indefinite occupation of the Maheshwar dam site in January 1998 by several thousand project affected people which lasted 20 days, including a six day long hunger strike.The Order constituting the Task Force also laid down that the construction on the project would be stopped till the report of the Task Force is obtained. The Task Force was Chaired by Shri S.C. Behar, former Chief Secretary and currently Advisor to Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. The Task Force consisted of senior technical and other officials of the Government of MP, including Members of NVDA and MPEB, independent experts and NBA representatives.

The Maheshwar project is a 400 MW hydropower project being constructed on the Narmada river near Mandeleshwar in Khargone district in Madhya Pradesh, just upstream of the Sardar Sarovar. It is a part of the ambitious Narmada Valley Development Project of MP, which includes construction of 29 large dams, 135 medium and over 3000 small dams on the Narmada and its tributaries, all in MP. The project is to affect 61 villages directly by submergence, and displace 2200 families, a figure which NBA believes is a serious underestimate. It will also have several other impacts and costs which have not been counted. Maheshwar is among the first hydropower project in India to be privatised and the promoters are S.Kumars, the textile company. A total of 66% of the equity is held by German companies Bayernwerk, VEW Energie and Siemens. The German Government has already put on hold the Export Credit Guarantee and Investment Guarantee to the project pending resolution of the R&R issue.

Since two years, NBA has organised local people who are fighting for their rights, and have been calling for the stoppage of work and full review of the project.
 

Shripad Dharmadhikary
Narmada Bachao Andolan
and,
Member, Task Force on Narmada Valley, Madhya Pradesh

 

Those desiring a full copy of the Task Force Report on Maheshwar, or any further information, can contact :
 

Narmada Bachao Andolan
B 13 Shivam Flats
Ellora Park
Baroda (Vadodara)
INDIA 390 007
Ph : +91-265-38 22 32
Fax : c/o +91-265-330 430 Attn. NBA