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PRESS STATEMENT 5 APRIL 1999

PEOPLE AFFECTED BY SEVERAL DAMS IN THE NARMADA VALLEY TO LAUNCH INDEFINITE PROGRAM IN BHOPAL FROM 7TH APRIL

The people affected by the large dams coming up on the Narmada river have announced that they will start an indefinite sit - in program from the 7 April in Bhopal which would be converted into a indefinite hunger strike if the Government does not respond to the demands raised by the people. The people affected by ongoing or proposed dams such as Maheshwar, Narmada Sagar, Maan, Jobat, Goi, Veda as also those already built like Tawa and Bargi will start on 5 April 1999 from their villages and move in large numbers to Indore. In Indore, a rally and one day's dharna in front of the Office of the Commissioner will mark the start of the program. Then, the people will move to Bhopal and launch a sit in from 7 APril. This was announced by NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit in a press conference in Bhopal on 4.3.99


The demands are very simple - implement the recommendations of the Government constituted Task Force. It may be recollected that the Government of M.P. had set up a Task Force consisting of Senior officials, NBA representatives and independent experts to critically evaluate the current Narmada Valley Development Project and develop a framework of alternative approaches. The Narmada Valley Development Project consists of 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams in the Valley, all but one of these being in M.P. The Task Force had submitted its report in January 1999. Before that, the Task Force had submitted a separate report on the Maheshwar Hydro Power Project, jointly owned by Indian -German companies.


The Report on Maheshwar had recommended that the whole cost - benefit analysis of the project would have to be relooked into, and if the project was found viable, then the feasibility of rehabilitation should be examined. The work on the project should begin only after these had been done. Yet, the Government has ignored the recommendations and immediately after receiving the report, has allowed work to resume on the project. Thus paving way for displacement without justification,and displacement without rehabilitation.


The private companies owning and building the project - S.Kumars, Bayernwerk and Vew Energie, too have ignored all these issues and are bent up on only pushing the work ahead, regardless of anything. The work on the project is proceeding even though the oustees expressed their anger at the volte-face by the Government by taking up a number of one day occupations of the dam site, the latest one being on 31st March, where the police used tear gas to disperse the people.


With the Government refusing to implement the recommendations of its own Task Force, in spite of a number of warning demonstrations, the people now have no recourse left but to launch an indefinite program.


Meanwhile, the situation in the other projects in the Valley also remains serious. In spite of repeated warnings by the NBA, and discussions in the TAsk Force, the it is likely that people in the submergence area of Maan and Narmada Sagar projects would be affected in this monsoon, without any proper rehabilitation what-so-ever, in blatant violation of their basic rights. Work continues on these projects also. On the contrary, when the problem of displacement of these projects itself is not solved, the Government has given the go ahead and sanctioned money for new projects like Veda, sure to lead to misery fro thousands of more people.


In view of all this, the NBA has no choice left but to come out on the streets and launch an indefinite struggle.


The Government of MP seems to be preparing to tackle the whole issue with he use of police force. This is indicated by the fact that tear gas was used on the peaceful demonstrators on 31 March at Maheshwar dam site, and then, in bid to justify it and prepare grounds fro further use of force, the District Collector has accused the agitators of stone throwing and has filed false cases against 23 people.


Meanwhile, the people affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project are already on a "yatra" (journey) where about 2000 people have started out since 1 April, traversing various parts of Maharashtra, and have reached Mumbai. This "yatra" which is challenging the Government for its wrong and misleading facts, will culminate in Delhi on 7th and an indefinite program will begin there too. The people affected by SSP will join the Bhopal program in representative capacity, and the people affected by other dams will be joining the Delhi program in representative capacity.


Shripad Dharmadhikary