NBA Press Release
  04 August 2008
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Satyagraha begins in Upper Beda dam in Narmada valley: People from all over the Narmada valley make a declaration of struggle

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-233162, 9425056802, 9425087827
Email: nobigdam[at]sancharnet.in

Villagers of the Upper Beda dam being built on the Beda river in the Narmada valley began "Narmada Jal-satyagraha' yesterday at tribal Village Sonud in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. In solidarity with the villagers affected by the Upper Beda dam, hundreds of oustees of the Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar, Maheshwar, Man and other dams who had gathered at Sonud declared that they would intensify the struggle until the State was compelled to give them their legitimate rights relating to complete rehabilitation and resettlement before submergence. They declared that they would face the unlawful submergence being brought by the State Government due to the construction of the dam up ro 305 meters when rehabilitation has not been effected, and stated that they would prefer to drown but not move if the waters inundate their village.

Extent of submergence not yet known

It may be noted that 14 tribal and Banjara villages are affected by the Upper Beda dam in the Narmada valley. The full reservoir level of the dam is 317 meters, and the maximum water level is 318 meters. This year, the construction on the dam has reached the crest level of 305 meters. As per government information, at the crest level of 305 meters, the possible submergence at back-water level this year is 312 meters. It is surprising that although GOMP itself has calculated the impact at back-water this year to be 7 meters, but no computation of the back-water levels at MWL (Maximum Water Level) has been done till now. Nor have villages been surveyed up to that level. To assess the full extent of submergence, computation of back-waters at MWL (Maximum Water Level) 318 meters will have to be done. There is no doubt that this submergence will be much larger than the submergence at FRL which is being presently informed to the oustees, and in which it is likely that many other villages including the large abadi of Chainpur is likely to submerge.

Flagrant violation of Rehabilitation Policy and law

The Rehabilitation Policy of the Government of Madhya Pradesh applicable for the Upper Beda dam requires that all oustees - land-holders, encroachers and landless families and their adult sons and adult un-married daughters should be allotted agricultural land with a minimum allotment of 5 acres of irrigated and cultivable land. However this has not been provided to a single oustee, which will result in the complete pauperization of the oustees after displacement. Not even a single R&R site has been constructed for the oustees.

Submergence without rehabilitation

This year itself, at crest level 305 meters, submergence at back-water level may go up to 312 meters in which many families of villages Khamid, Sonud and Palda will be affected, but none of them have been rehabilitated till date. It is shocking that in Village Palda, even land acquisition proceedings have not been started. Obviously, rehabilitation is a far cry. It may be noted that as per the rulings of the Supreme Court, the complete rehabilitation of all the affected families is required to be completed before submergence. However in the Upper Beda dam, the process of R&R is yet to be even begun.

Declaration of satyagraha

Satyagraha was commenced in Village Sonud with great enthusiasm against the proposed inhuman and un-constitutional submergence of lands and houses of the villagers of the Upper Beda dam without their prior rehabilitation and resettlement. In the programme, oustees of the Upper Beda dam accompanied by the oustees of the Indira Sagar dam, Maheshwar dam, Omkareshwar dam and Man dam took out a rally and went down to the Beda river. Standing in the Beda river, they took a oath to fight to the end for their rights and drown on their lands and homes inundated by the rising waters but not move or flee, as desired by the Government. At the beginning of the satyagraha, Bansingh bhai of Village Sonud lit a lamp in front of the photograph of Mahatma Gandhi.

Addressing the meeting at the Satyagraha site, senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said that the constitutional and legal rights of the people affected by the large dams in the Narmada valley are being violated in every part of the valley. He said that any development that results in the pauperization of te oustees cannot be called development. Therefore, it is only after rights are given to the affected people, that the benefits of the dam can be taken. Girwarbhai of Upper Beda dam, Ramkuwar Rawat from Man dam, Krishna bai from Indira Sagar dam, Radhabai of Maheshwar dam, and Rameshbhai of Omkareshwar dam said that the entire Narmada valley is determined to carry on an intense struggle facing all odds in order to achieve their rights.

The oustees stated that they nearly 10,000 oustees had marched in Bhopal on the 10th and 11th of July had put all their demands before the Chief Minister in their meeting with him. Now the decisions have to be taken by the State Government. The do-or-die struggle of the oustees would continue and intensify until they receive all their legitimate rights.

Ramkuwar Rawat, Mangilal, Vesta Pael, Chittaroopa Palit, Alok