NBA Press Release
  10 February 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Jatiya Swears by Justice to Oustees: Narmada Dharna at Social Justice Ministry Ends

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The Rehabilitation & Resettlement sub-group of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has not given permission for any further construction of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Narmada valley, beyond present 90 meters, in its meeting held on February 8. Mr. C.Gopal Reddy, Chairman, R & R Sub-Group, conveyed this to a delegation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), on Saturday (February 9). He also informed that the sub-group has decided to first review the status of resettlement of those already affected at the present height of the dam (90 meters) and then by the proposed 100m. Accordingly, the dam construction would remain suspended until the sub-group is satisfied about the resettlement.

After this clarification, hundreds of people from the Narmada valley ended their two-day dharna in Delhi and returned back to the valley on Saturday, vowing to fight against the unjust and illegal displacement. The villagers came to Delhi to register their protest against the reported move to increase the height of dam from 90 meters to 100 meters. They held demonstrations and dharna (sit in) in front of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in New Delhi on February 7-8. They also kept a watch on the meeting of the NCA sub-groups, held on 8th.

With regard to the proposed move to introduce cash compensation instead of land for land, Mr. Reddy made it clear that the process of rehabilitation would be done only in accordance with the provisions of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) Award and the Supreme Court judgement. Both have clearly emphasised land-based resettlement. He also promised to visit the area shortly and to inform the NBA of the same to facilitate its suggestions/participation.

Warning To environment Sub-Group

Meanwhile, the Environment sub-group of NCA, in its meeting held also on February 8, preferred to base its decisions on the views of the resettlement Sub-group. It is obvious from the official reports that the various environmental mitigation plans are yet to be executed and some are not even formulated. The downstream impacts, for example, are neither fully studied nor planned for. The directly draining catchment area remains to be treated to the extent of 7800 hectares, as reported by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. There are exaggerated claims made by concerned governments about some aspects, like about the health plans by Government of Madhya Pradesh and also on the compensatory afforestation, which do not reflect the situation on the ground. While the process of granting land rights is on in Maharashtra the compensation afforestation done on the very land is likely to become null and void.

The Sub-group therefore, despite political pressures, cannot clear any further construction at this stage, which would obviously be contempt of the court. NBA strongly believes that the sub-group cannot bring out the truth about the environmental studies and plans with former Water Resource Secretary, Mr. C.D. Thatte as chairman of the committee to review environment impact studies. An unbiased review by an independent committee of environmentalists and officials is required for such an assessment.

Jatiya Promises Justice

Mr. Satyanarayan Jatiya, Minister Social Justice and Empowerment came to dharna place on February 9, and addressed the people. He promised that his Ministry would not tolerate any injustice to the affected families and would ensure the rights of the people. Bawa Mahariya (Jalsindhi, M.P.) and Manglia Pavra (Bhadal, Maharashtra) informed the Minister about the gravity of the situation in the Narmada valley. They made it clear that the concern is not just limited to SSP but to Narmada Sagar Project complex, Maheshwar, Man, Goi, Jobat and many such dams that are being pushed ahead only due to political expediencies with no resettlement, environment or financial plans. This would affect the lives, cultures and livelihoods of 25-30 lakh people.

The Minister was reminded that, to date there is no National Rehabilitation Policy despite the large-scale displacement hitherto and number of proposed or ongoing projects. They suggested that the Minister should take up the draft Rehabilitation policy, which has been held up due to the severe opposition from other Ministries including the Ministry of Water Resources and Power. They lamented that, there is no Water Policy which takes into account the present and future concerns and issues. This is very significant in view of the process of globalization and privatization of the natural resources like water, which belong to the community. There is a need for alternate approaches to water management with equitable distribution of harvested resources as the only solution and that too with the active participation of the organised people and their organizations. The minister promised to look into these issues.

Swami Agnivesh, Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, President of Adhyapak Sangh Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan, Premsagar Gupta, noted Socialist, Civil Liberty and Human rights groups, activists of People's Union of Democratic Rights (PUDR), SAHMAT and other organisation, students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi University and other colleges participated in the dharna. Noted writer Arundhati Roy, Justice Rajinder Sachar and others also participated in the first day of demonstrations.

Medha Patkar
Clifton D' Rozario
Pratibha Shinde
Devram Kanera
Mangliya Pavra