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Press Release/November 2, 1998

Visit of ICOLD To Sardar Sarovar Exposes Hypocrisy of Gujarat Government
Why Was the World Commission Banned and ICOLD Invited to Visit?

The visit of the executive committee of the ICOLD (International Commission on Large Dams) to the Sardar Sarovar dam site on 30/31 Oct. 1998, and the personal welcome to them by the SSNNL Chairperson clearly exposes the hypocrisy of the Gujarat Government which had banned the entry of the World Commission on Dams last September with much hysteria.

What reason and logic does the Gujarat Government offer for allowing one Commission to come in, indeed, inviting it, and banning and threatening to arrest the other Commission's members? Gujarat Government had given the reasons that it will not tolerate international interference in India (a stand which the NBA also supports) But the ICOLD is an international Commission. The other reason given to refuse permission to the WCD was that it included members like Medha Patkar. This means that the ICOLD does not have any members who can be said to be against large dams. And therein lies the real reason for the Gujarat Government to welcome it. The WCD on the other hand, included members who were supporters of large dams also, as well as neutral members. Thus, the WCD was a far more balanced team. The ICOLD team is clearly one sided.

The ICOLD is a commission consisting of representatives of dam building industries, consulting companies, and Government departments involved in building large dams, from over 150 countries. As such, it is clearly a body highly supportive of large dams, and the Gujarat Government will have felt it safe to allow it to visit SSP. The WCD on the other hand, is a more balanced body. It has a few critics of large dams like Medha Patkar, but it has also the supporters of large dams like Mr. Asmal, the Chair who is the Minister for Water Resources in S. Africa and is building dams there, and Mr. Veltrop, Hon. President of ICOLD to name only a few.

The implication is that Gujarat Government will allow only the one sided teams, teams that consist of only supporters of large dams to come to visit SSP, as it is afraid of the scrutiny of the balanced teams. After all, the balanced team will be able to expose the truth, while the one sided team will only see and say what the Government wants it to.

This is also clear from the fact that ICOLD was formally invited by NBA to spare time to hear the side of story presented by NBA and the affected people when they visit the SSP area, but they refused. It is clear that ICOLD itself is also not interested in hearing the people voices or the voices of the critics.

It may be noted that ICOLD is having its Annual Meeting in New Delhi from 1-7 Nov. 1998, and one of the post meeting field visits include a visit to the Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat. The visit of the Executive Committee of ICOLD prior to the Annual Meeting to SSP is possibly in preparation of the post meeting visit.

It may also be recalled that it was the Gujarat Government which has taken up a hysterical and shrill campaign against the proposed visit of the World Commission on Dams (WCD) in Sept.. 1998. It has not only threatened to arrest the Commission Members, but had also convened a special session of the State Assembly to condemn the WCD. It was due to the pressure of the Gujarat Government that the Indian Central Government banned the entry of WCD in India, overturning its earlier decision to welcome them.

Shripad Dharmadhikary

For, Narmada Bachao Andolan