NBA Press Release
  28 January 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

SARDAR SAROVAR DAM HEIGHT CANNOT BE RAISED!
NBA TO FIGHT TOOTH AND NAIL

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Baroda-390007
Tel: 0265-282232
Email: baroda@narmada.org

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Through yet another move to announce resumption of construction of Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) beyond the suspended height of 90 meters and raising it to 100 mts by June 2002, the politicians at the centre and states have once again exhibited but jingoist politics. None other than Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee himself has apparently been made to intervene and 'direct' the rehabilitation and environment sub-groups of Narmada Control Authority to accord the necessary clearances to the Project, at whatever cost, by February. This happened through an unholy alliance between the CMs of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, and a bargained compromise by Madhya Pradesh against the Law Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award, the rules of clearance with a precondition of rehabilitation and completion of environmental compensatory plans, and against the Supreme Court judgement itself. Prime Minister and his politics seems to have ignored all the illegality and injustice involved and gone the Enron way, bypassing law of the land.

It's by now been established that there are more than 30,000 families still in the reservoir area of SSP yet to be rehabilitated while the states neither Maharashtra nor Madhya Pradesh- have no land for the same. Rehabilitation of the less than 10,000 families attained over 22 years is infested with enormous problems and still incomplete.

The height of ill planning and haste occurred all through is obvious from the fact that both the submergence area and the number of oustees are on the increase by thousands of hectares and families even today. Even with a total underestimate, Madhya Pradesh has reported 3555 families to be balance at 100 mts and need to be rehabilitated before raising the height. The NCA with its 2 sub-groups, however, as admitted during a discussion at NCA office, Indore has refused to approve any further construction beyond 90 mts, at this stage. As per the Supreme Court directive therefore, the dam can't proceed at this stage. PM's directive is politics trying to subverse the judicial directive and hence contempt of the court, even worse than what Arundhati Roy is accused of.

Politics of states: Maharashtra must take up the fight

The Decision to raise the height was taken without Maharashtra being a party to the same. Government of Maharashtra has already accepted a need to review the entire data, records and land requirement before locating land for rehabilitation of a few thousand affected families in the 33 villages. This process has just begun with NBA participating and the results in the form of a master plan will be out only after a few months. Government has also written to the NCA about its cabinet's decision on certain changes in the rehabilitation policy, based on the Daud Committee report and the decision 'not to allow further raise in the dam height beyond 90 mts at present (Ref: GoM's letter of October 25th 2001 and January 11th, 2002). How could then the other two states take a decision against this? Will Maharashtra take a firm stand and raise a fight to protect the state's and adivasis interests?

Maharashtra has also to consider the financial plan and economics of SSP. If not today, it will be never. No doubt the present government has appointed a committee to review the costs and benefits of the projects to the state. With the officially acknowledged SSP cost being 30,000 crores, Maharashtra's share comes not less than 2200 crores while NBA's calculations clearly shows the final cost to be not less than 50,000 crores and GoM's share to 4833 crores. The balance of the state's share in 'the expenses till date as power part of SSP' (total 2900 crores) to be paid by the state immediately itself is 300 crores while all the river valley projects (Krishna, Godavari or tributaries) and minor irrigation in the state is facing a serious financial crunch, will the state not look into the real net benefits and the cost social as well as financial? The power project installation cost in SSP is not less than 6 crores / MW as against below 3 crores in other past projects. The power generation is already affected to a large percent (23% due to delay in clearance by the Ministry of Environment, as per the GoMP's suit in the Supreme Court and is to further decrease due to delay in NSP and less water flow in Narmada.

Madhya Pradesh politics of vested interests

Digvijay Singh government, surprisingly has sided with Gujarat and not Maharashtra with a clear interest in pushing its own gigantic dam in Khandwa district, Narmada (or Indira) Sagar Project submerging 254 villages, 40000 hectares of good forest and about 1,00,000 hectares of prime agricultural land which is on the verge of privatisation. As in Maheshwar, the corporate sector, as a politicians supporter, is bound to push the project even with utter financial disaster and human tragedy of displacement without resettlement.

With privatisation and NSP costs changing/escalating, SSP cost will also change/escalate and the projects prove to be financial blunders. The state politicians and bureaucrats however are irresponsibly concealing and neglecting this reality. In SSP itself, Madhya Pradesh has yet to resettle atleast 4000 families below 100 mts who can't be resettled by February end as there is no land available even for rehabilitating one single village as confirmed to us by Madhya Pradesh (NVDA) officials. The total number of families in the state is 30,000 + families and hence they have taken a resort to cash compensation alone, in total violation of NWD Tribunal Award which is rejected and protested by the affected families.

NBA to fight again...

Such a corrupt politics that the latest decision is a symbol of, needs to fought against, tooth and nail. The Prime Minister, if bluffed by the states concerned and the bureaucrats hand in gloves, can't plead to be ignorant of Narmada issues, known and debated nationally and internationally, Government of Maharashtra, proved to be more pro-people in its latest participatory approach to the issue of displacement can't lie low and be apathetic to the losing project and callous to the affected tribals.

NBA, thousands of adivasis and farmers, will take the fight to its peak again and also stake their lives if the rehabilitation sub-group of NCA finalises commencement of dam construction in its forthcoming meeting of February 8th, 2002.

Medha Patkar
Pratibha Shinde - PSS