Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 21, 2000

SURVEY IN SSP AFFECTED JALSINDHI VILLAGE WRONG BY 3 METRES;
GROSS UNDERESTIMATION OF IMPACTS

Casting serious doubts of the authenticity of the surveys conducted by the different governments in the Narmada valley, independent surveys have revealed that the level of Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh) mentioned in the govt. records are wrong by 3 mts.

A study conducted by Dr.Ravi Kuchimanchi and a team have conclusively proved that the survey of levels in the Sardar Sarovar Dam project can be off by as much as 3 metres so as to grossly under-estimate the amount of submergence. On the banks of the Narmada, in the village of Jalsindhi in Madhya Pradesh the elevation of the lowest house as per papers given by the government is 101.5 metres. However according to independent measurements, Loharia's house in Jalsindhi is only at 98.4 metres and thus is actually 3.1 metres lower. Last year when the Narmada rose to 98.8 metres on Sept 21, waters entered Loharia's house and people were standing knee deep in it, challenging the unjust SSP dam. If the lowest homestead in Jalsindhi was actually at 101.5 metres, waters should not have entered even a single house in that village. The study has also found that in the Hapeshwar temple, (in Gujarat) the benchmark is off by 3 metres and so were the readings of water levels measured by the government at this site in the past years. Benchmarks are supposed to be highly accurate, even to the last millimeter and this one that says 105.900 metres is actually at 103 metres! Last week the poles leading to the Narmada river showing the Hapeshwar water level have been painted over. Perhaps they will now be corrected, but nevertheless it proves that benchmarks along the Narmada river had errors of upto 3 metres when the government surveys were done, and this is not good news for those who are facing submergence by the monster dam.

This proves a gross underestimation of the effects of submergence in the valley during this monsoon and after. Hundreds of families, who did not find their names, as 'affected' will have to pay for this callousness. The affidavits submitted in the Supreme Court about the people who will get affected this monsoon, and the steps taken to rehabilitate them will also be proved wrong by this.

The consequences of this underestimation can be well noted in the case of Bargi dam the first major dam completed on Narmada in 1990. Bargi dam, which was originally supposed to submerge only 101 villages, ended up drowning 162 villages. People who were moved to rehabilitation sites were submerged for a second and sometimes even a third time because waters entered even these supposedly "higher" places. Rehabilitation sites, schools, hand pumps etc which the govt. built for the affected met a watery grave by the dam completed.

To further prove the point, in Chilkada, Alirajpur tehsil, in two different set of government papers, the height of the lowest homestead has been shown differently -- on one it has been given as 115.84 metres and on the other there is a home at 113.74 metres and no home at 115.84 metres! The horror of displacement is such that when a house or farm is situated even one inch above the stones laid by the government, the person is not considered Project Affected and no one, including the GRA, listens to their complaints. They are just dismissed rudely. That the village person thinks water will enter his/her house is ofcourse ignored as the system is not friendly to hearing the views of the affected people they rely on the government records. When a farmer or adivasi is expected to lose less than 25% of land in submergence, he/she is not entitled to land for land compensation. In this situation, surveys being off by even a few centimetres can make a difference on percentage of land lost and whether there will be land for land or not. The Bargi experience of rehabilitation sites themselves submerging, may also repeat if the surveys are wrong at the sites. To exemplify, Chandankhedi rehabilitation site in Kukshi tahsil, district Dhar and Bhawati in District Badwani, are according to the government surveys, at 143 metres less than 2 metres above the backwaters that will cross 141 metres if the dam is completed.

To make matters worse the way the governments indicate where the waters will reach in a village is highly arbitrary. In Chilkada village, MP, the officials installed stones with no numbers on them and villagers who enquired were told verbally that waters would reach there on completion of the dam. But three years ago all such stones have been removed and put about 6 metres lower, and once again no numbers were on them. In villages like Sikka in Maharashtra a pile of stones was put this year and some lime has been poured over them and once again no informative numbers are put. People who were present when they were being piled up were told that waters would reach there this year. In Badwani, MP almost exactly near the 436 feet stones put in the recent years, on the road in a couple of places there are much older stones of 411 feet! In some places there are 436 and 455 feet stones together but according to the officials this is because the back waters of the FRL 436 feet reach the 455 area. That may be the case, but then how does one explain the old 411 stones? The highly accurate surveys were wrong either now or in the past or probably at both times by different amounts.

It is evident that there is no land to rehabilitate all the people and farms being displaced by the SSP dam. On top of this the government surveys are understating the amount of submergence and information given to the people is confusing, arbitrary and contradictory. There is neither will nor ability to rehabilitate people according to the Narmada Tribunal and the amount of destruction that is being done by the SSP dam is far too great to even estimate. It must be recognized that the project itself is nonviable and illegal, having violated not only the Tribunal but also environmental laws, and should be stopped and completely reviewed taking the affected people into confidence and with their participation.

NBA takes serious note of this and urge all the state governments to stall all work related to the dam including the illegal distribution of cash in M.P. Unless a proper survey is carried out in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh again, one will not be able to assess the impacts and thus will fall behind preparation for rehabilitation of thousands more, who have not yet found in the records of the governments. To avoid a grave human tragedy, all concerned should take immediate steps to see that the basic surveys are corrected and the impacts rightly assessed, before pushing the project on political reasons and for protecting vested interests.

M.K.Sukumar;    Joe Athialy