NBA Press Note

January 25, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, M.P.
Telefax: 07283-33162

Man Project affected tribals march in Dhar, sit in at Collector's office; Demand immediate stoppage of construction on dam in face of imminent submergence in the monsoon of 2001

Nearly 500 affected tribals affected by Man Project marched in the streets of Dhar yesterday demanding immediate stoppage of work on the Man dam being built on the Man river in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh , as part of the 30 large dams of the Narmada valley Project. The tribals pointed out that work on the spillway section of the dam is proceeding at a furious pace, and that the villages of Khedi Balwadi, Kacchauda, Khanpura and several others would be submerged this monsoon itself without any rehabilitation whatsoever. They demanded that work on the dam should be immediately and land based rehabilitation be given to the tribals. They said that if the government continued with the construction of the dam and pushing them further and further towards submergence, they would have to stop the work on the dam themselves.

The rally was attended by a large number of women and men from the Maheshwar dam area as well as representatives from Sardar Sarovar. The demonstrators converged in the office of the District Collector who was away despite prior information. They then sat in at the Collector's office until he came to meet them late in the evening. The Collector promised to take immediate steps on the matter. Sarpanch Bhuwansingh of village Khedi, Sarpanch Devisingh of Bhuwada and Govindbhai of Village Khanpura challenged him that if this were not to happen, then the people would be forced to stop construction on the dam themselves. Alok Agarwal , prominent NBA activist said that the government had showcased Dhar for its internet access program called the Gyandoot Yojna which had received the Stockholm Challenge award but the reality was the government's callous attitude towards tribals and their planned submergence without rehabilitation a Yamdoot Yojna!! He also pointed out that the quality of construction of the dam was so shoddy that it raised the real question of dam safety and the safety of the villages downstream including the town of Manawar.

The Man Project is an irrigation Project will submerge 17 completely tribal villages in the area. The area to be submerged are the rich black cotton soils of the Man valley watered from lift irrigation from the Man river as well as numerous wells in the area. It may be recalled that in 1989, the government finalized and declared the rehabilitation policy for the oustees of the Narmada valley Projects. The cornerstone of this policy was the land- for- land provision as well as the intent to resettle villages as communities. Yet, in 1992-1993, when the policy was already in place, the tribals of the Man valley were not even informed about their entitlements , and their rights were dispensed off with small amounts of cash compensation.

In 1997, even as the government had given notices declaring intention to evict the tribals, the affected people came in contact with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Over the next three years, they organized themselves and struggled against imminent displacement and submergence that the dam would bring. They rallied again and again at Dhar, Indore and Bhopal. In 1999, the tribals from Man sat along with affected people from the other dams in the Narmada valley for nearly a month in Bhopal. At the end of 21 days fast ,the Madhya Pradesh government brought out a government order on the 2nd of May,1999, This order stated that a rehabilitation committee would be formed with representatives of the state, affected villagers and members of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.The order also said that the rehabilitation process would proceed on the principle that all work on the dam would not be allowed to proceed beyond 31st of December of any year, if rehabilitation does not keep pace with construction on the dam.

Despite this government order which specified that a Punarwas Ayojan Committee should be constituted by the 31st of May, 1999, the NVDD formally constituted this committee only on the 10th of October,2000 - nearly one and a half years later. The committee included members from the Narmada Bachao Andolan Chittaroopa Palit and Rehmat . It may be noted that more than 3 months has passed since this committee has been constituted but no meeting of this Committee has been called.

Yet, in these last three months work has proceeded on the spillway section of the dam at such a fast pace as to imminently drown out the lands and the villages of the Man Project this coming monsoon itself. There is not a shadow of doubt that this very year, we shall witness the cruel flooding out of hundreds of tribal people in a manner that cannot be condoned in a civilized society, and that can certainly not bring credit to a government that has showcased the district of Dhar as a development model.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the people of the Narmada valley call on the Madhya Pradesh government to immediately stop all work on the dam site , call a meeting of the Punarwas Ayojan Samiti constituted by the NVDD urgently ,rehabilitate affected people as per the NVDA policy and the conditions of the MoEF clearance on agricultural land in a time bound manner and examine the other issues of rehabilitation such as complaints about under estimation of resources and population ,including adult sons , and complaints about compensation.

Chittaroopa Palit
Govind bhai Sarpanch, Khedi Balwadi