NBA Press Release
  16 April 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Fast continues into 19th day; 55 protesters demanding meeting with PM arrested in front of his house; No explanation for the PM's reluctance to suspend dam construction except bowing to Modi's pressure

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

The indefinite fast continues into the 19th day even as the health condition of all three fasters – Bhagvatibai, Jamsing and Medha Patkar – deteriorates. Meanwhile the relay fast by Prof. Deven Singh, Rajendra Ravi, Bela Bhatia, Dr. Vandana Prasad, Amarnathbhai, Dr. Sachidanand and Dayabai entered third day. Tomorrow, Andolan has given a call for going on hunger strike en masse.

55 protesters seeking a meeting with the PM to ask him to perform his duty as directed by Supreme Court in its October 18, 2000 judgement were arrested by Delhi Police today afternoon from in front of his house. Those arrested included Swami Agnivesh, Vinod Raina, Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Achin Vanaik, Shabnam Hashmi, Vinod Dua, students from JNU and DU as well as other supporters. These supporters, in a peaceful manner, approached the PM's house and submitted a memorandum and made requested for a meeting with the PM. Immediately the Rapid Action Force and police were brought in and the supporters ushered into buses. The police is holding them in custody at Chanakyapuri Police Station.

Whereas the Supreme Court judgement puts the responsibility on PM, to deliver his decision, in event of disputes between party states at RCNCA; its really sad to note that his media advisor is misguiding the press stating that the dam construction is not going to be stopped, even as the PM keeps entertaining pro-dam delegations of politicians from Gujarat.

Since the people to be affected are not rehabilitated as per the Supreme Court orders and the Narmada Tribunal Award, there is no legal ground for raising the dam height. The Supreme Court directions are clear in stating that the affected families be rehabilitated with alternate cultivable and irrigable land six months in advance of the submergence. Moreover, acting as devil's advocate, let us for the time being put aside all the sound arguments for SSP not being the most appropriate option for water needs of Gujarat or power needs of the western India. Thus, even if we look at the benefits angle, there is no justification for the proposition as Gujarat has not been able to use even 10% of the water available at current height.

Irrigation:

For example, as per the claim of the official website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam (www.sardarsarvordam.org), Gujarat has been able to irrigate 57002 ha from the SSP, which is just 10% of the irrigation possible in phase I of the project. The main reason why more irrigation has not been achieved is that Gujarat has not developed the distribution system and the command area for irrigating more areas. Among all the components of the SSP, development of the canal network right upto the field is the most expensive one. Because of the delay in the development of the command area (this has no direct relation with the height of the dam), SSP has become the costliest irrigation project in India today. As per the Mid term appraisal of the 10th Five year plan, the cost of just the irrigation component of SSP has gone up to Rs 30823 crores (2005 prices), and cost of irrigating one ha has gone up to a whopping Rs 1 72 000. Had SSP been planned properly, it could have started irrigating at least 5 lakh ha in 2004 (even earlier since the Irrigation By Pass Tunnel was inaugurated on Aug 20, 2002), but that objective is unlikely to be achieved for at least 5 more years if we go by the past performance. The project authorities should be held accountable for this delay. Their hankering for increase in height of the dam, rather than use of the available water has done a great disservice to the people and public resources of Gujarat. This also applies to Rajasthan as Rajasthan can get its share of water without increase in height of the dam as once water enters the gravity flow canal (as it has been happening since 2002 through IBPT and since 2004 through Canal Head Power House), water can flow to Rajasthan.

Drinking water:

The second claimed benefit is the drinking water from SSP. The total allocation of water for Municipal and Industrial supply from SSP is 1.06 MAF. This amount of water has been available at least since 1999 when the dam height reached 85 mts. It was only in 2001 that pumping of water from SSP into canals was started. From that date, if the drinking water distribution system as planned were in place, Gujarat could have provided drinking water to all the 135 towns and 8215 villages as per the plans. There is no need for increase in height of the dam for achieving that objective. However, since the distribution system is not in place even today, the objective has not been achieved. If there is anyone to be blamed for this delay, it is only the Gujarat government and not NBA or the affected people.

The ambitious Sardar Sarovar Narmada Canal Based Bulk Water Transmission Project commenced in the year 1999-2000 and was scheduled to be completed by 2002, but was lagging behind due to “defective planning and lack of coordination among different agencies” and not because of litigations or non raising of the dam height, as borne out from the findings of the CAG reports for the year ending March 31, 2003 and 2005. As per the CAG report on Gujarat (civil) for the year ending March 31, 2003, “The gross average daily intake during the two years of its operation (December 2000 to November 2002) was 119.80 MLD against the envisaged capacity of 287 MLD (i.e. 42 percent of capacity utilisation) only. Of the envisaged coverage of 1860 villages/ towns, benefit reached only to 543 villages. So, even after two years of execution, at the cost of Rs 464.17 crores, benefits could be derived to the extent of 44 percent of the envisaged population only”. The CAG report on Gujarat (civil) for the year ending March 31, 2005 covers the implementation and performance of the second route of Sardar Sarovar Canal Based Bulk Water Transmission Project. At Para 3.2.8.3 CAG mentions that due to delay in execution of distribution works, “only 29 percent of installed capacity of water was used and only 415 of 1342 targeted villages/ towns (i.e. 31 percent) were covered”. Elaborating on this, CAG states, “as a result of delay in execution of distribution works, the gross daily intake during May 2003 to June 2005 was 145.17 MLD (29 percent) against the envisaged capacity utilisation of 500 MLD”.

Power generation:

The third claimed justification for increase in height of the dam is the power generation. If optimum power generation were the objective of the project authorities, all the units of the power component should have been in place by June 2004 when the dam height of 110 m was achieved. However, that is not the situation even today. It should be noted that installation of the power units is not dependent on the height of the dam. If all the units are not in place, it is only because of the mismanagement of the project authorities. It is the project authorities that should take the blame for the lower than possible power generation from SSP.

It is true that if the height of the dam is increased, the installed units would be able to generate slightly (maximum 7.7%, reducing to nil once irrigation develops in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh) higher power as they would have greater head of water for power generation. However, this increase would be marginal. It cannot be the case of any civilized society that homes and livelihoods of thousands of people can be destroyed for such marginal gains. If the authorities had achieved the rehabilitation as required under the law, they could have a justified case for increase in height of the dam. Today they have none.

On the power front it should also be noted that MP and Maharashtra power sectors (they share 57% and 27% of the power generated at SSP respectively) have power T&D losses in excess of 30%, which can be brought down to less than half that level. More needs to be done on this front, that would make available a lot more power than going for the inhuman, illegal and unjust option of submerging homes and lives of thousands of people.

It is thus strange as to why the Gujarat Govt and the Union Water Resources Ministry are pushing for increase in height of the dam, which is neither just, not justified. All concerned should keep this in mind as they debate the issue of stopping the construction of SSP Dam till R&R is completed as required.

Yogini Khanolkar
Dipti Bhatnagar
Kailash Awasya
Keshav Vasave