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THE MAHESHWAR DAM
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NBA Press Note                                                 5th April 2000

MAHESHWAR DAM AFFECTED PEOPLE DEMONSTRATE AT AMERICAN EMBASSY AND POWER FINANCE CORPORATION

Yesterday on the 4th of April, around two hundred people affected by the Maheshwar dam being built on the river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh demonstrated at the American Embassy in New Delhi, despite heavy security arrangements . The affected people submitte d a memorandum addressed to U.S. President Bill Clinton to the Embassy officials and expressed their anger that during Clinton's recent visit to India, the Ogden Energy Group- a power utility that had accompanied him, had signed a memorandum of intent to invest 49% equity into the destructive Maheshwar Project.

In the memorandum, the affected people of the Narmada valley expressed their disquiet about the proposed investment and pointing out that the Project is of no real public utility to the people of Madhya Pradesh because of the prohibitively high cost of po wer. They also pointed out that in the last three years, the Project authorities have not been able to show the affected people a single square inch of cultivable land which they are legally required to do before commencing on any work on this Project The y called upon Mr.Clinton, to understand the implications of the investment of the Ogden Energy Group in the destructive Maheshwar Project and review and reverse this unfortunate decision.

In the afternoon the affected people entered the office and demonstrated at the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) office in New Delhi and met Dr. K. K. Govil Director Projects and Mr. Khan. Describing the destructive impact of the Maheshwar project, the aff ected people urged the PFC not to finance the dam. The demonstration at PFC continued till late evening. The people challenged the officials at the PFC to demonstrate that the project was in public interest and the electricity produced by this project wil l be available and accessible for the common people of the country. They also demanded to know the details of the availability of agriculture land and other rehabilitation arrangements for the people. The senior directors of the PFC were unable to give an y answers. It is note worthy that given the recent visit of the American President Mr. Bill Clinton, on the 23rd of March 2000, the Ogden Energy Group and the PFC had signed a number of agreements to put money into this project. It was to express oppositi on to this that yesterday at 11:30 am groups of affected people conglomerated at the American Embassy with slogans like, "Go back Ogden", "No American money for our destruction", "No to Maheshwar Dam", catching the security and the embassy officials by su rprise.

Many representatives from national and international press were there to cover the action. Along with the people of the Maheshwar impact zone, many supporters from Delhi also attended the program. These include Shri Probir Purkayastha of the Delhi Science Forum, Shri Vimal of the National Alliance of People's Movements, Dr. A. K. Arun of Azadi Bachao Andolan, noted writer Arundhati Roy, educationists Dr. N. Bhattacharya and Mr. Rana Behl, Ms. Laksmi Murti and Vani Subramanyam from Saheli women's organizat ion, Ms. Shalini from Nirantar and many others.

Despite heavy police build up the demonstration carried on for more than two hours. The affected people demanded to meet the Ambassador. Finally a five-member delegation led by a senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan Chittaroopa Palit, went into t he premises and handed over the memorandum to other officials at the embassy. It may be noted that the Narmada Bachao Andolan had asked for an appointment with the Ambassador but there was no response from the embassy. After the demonstration and the hand ing over of the memorandum the people were arrested and taken to the Chanakyapuri Police Station. They were released later after two hours of detention.

The controversial and destructive Maheshwar Project is a big dam being built on the river Narmada which will affect the lives and livelihoods of nearly 40,000 people of 61 villages of Madhya Pradesh whose lands and homes will be partially and fully submer ged by the dam. This Project which has no irrigation component has a proposed installed capacity of 400 MW .Yet the actual average firm power of the Project will be only 65 MW. Moreover while the Maheshwar dam will generate power for only 1- 1.5 hours a d ay for 8 months of the year, this power will be one of the most expensive in the country yet with the levellised tariff at point of production being Rs.6.52 and the cost of peaking power being Rs.9.65 per kWh. Clearly when the power reaches the consumer , its cost will be anywhere between Rs. 12- Rs. 15 per kWh - a prohibitively expensive tariff that will put this power out of reach of any domestic, agricultural and industrial consumer in the country.

For the last three years the people affected by the Maheshwar dam who are fighting under the aegis of Narmada Bachao Andolan warned the officials both at the embassy and the PFC. They said that they are prepared to wage a relentless struggle against the Maheshwar hydro-electric project that will not only destroy the Narmada valley but also hold the state of Madhya Pradesh and the country to ransom. They said that they would prefer to die than to move to a life without livelihood and dignity. They express ed their resolve not to let this dam be built at any cost.

Chittaroopa Palit
Narmada Bachao Andolan