NBA Press Release
  27 July 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Earthquake in Narmada Dam Region of 4.3 Richter Scale Intensity; Grim Warning for Gujarat and Narmada Valley

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An earthquake of the intensity of 4.3 on Richter scale struck in the area near the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), with its epicenter at Dhadgaon (Dist. Nandurbar, Maharashtra) on July 27, 2003. This is a grim warning regarding the danger of major seismic activity in the near future. The earthquake is a cause of concern for the people in the Narmada valley and those of Gujarat also, who are barely recovering from the ghastly Kutch earthquake of 2001.

The 'mild tremors' (as trivialized by the Gujarat Ministers and officials) are a sign of what the Gujarat and entire Narmada valley has in store due to the ill-advised Sardar Sarovar project. It may be recollected that several ‘mild tremors’ preceded the Kutch earthquake. Hence the government should not take this warning lightly.

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had given only conditional clearance to the dam, in 1987, on the express condition that important studies, including that of the seismicity, will be completed before 1989. The studies were not completed and the clearance was lapsed,which was conveyed by the Ministry to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA),by September 1990. The MoEF asked for seeking fresh clearance, which is still to be sought. The matter came up during the hearing of the Supreme Court from 1994-2000 and in his minority verdict, Justice Bharucha made it clear that "Until environmental clearance to the Project is accorded by them, further construction work on the dam shall cease."

Narmada valley has been the geologically fault zone and the Sardar Sarovar dam is situated in the 'triple junction' area of fault lines - one coming from Aravalli ranges and other from the Western Ghats, apart from the Narmada Fault zone. There have been instances of tremors in Khandwa region and an earthquake of Jabalpur in May 1997, which killed many and caused damage of property was a stern warning. The ghastly earthquake of Kutch in January 2001, is yet another harsh reminder of the danger for the Narmada region. Dr.Harsh Gupta, Director of National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) had observed then that, the extension of the fault zone of Narmada-Sone lineament might be responsible for the Gujarat (Kutch) quake which had released 900% more energy than the Latur quake". Prof. R.S. Negi that the Gujarat earthquake is likely to trigger off the tectonic activities in the Narmada-Sone lineament.

In the light of these observations and facts, the Narmada Bachao Andolan insists that the Government must immediately conduct an in-depth study about seismicity in the Narmada valley, by an independent body, comprising of eminent experts, stopping all the further work on the dam.

Secondly, the water volume in the dam has to be reduced by opening the sluices and discharging the water from the dam. There should be no discharge of the additional water from the upstream dams in the Narmada valley.

It is strange that the officials always maintain the line that, 'the dam will be safe even if earthquake of 6 Richter scale occurs". Even if we grant that the dam wall will be safe - what about the devastation caused by the earthquake accelerated and accentuated by the dam? What will we do with 'the intact dam' then?

Water level in the reservoir rising alarmingly

Meanwhile, the submergence in the Narmada valley has been increasing continuously and the latest water height on the dam was 100.80 meters in the late night of July 27. As the increasing submergence waters of the Narmada entered the Maharashtra villages, the state government sent police to displace the people forcibly and demolished their houses, without resettling them according to the law. The people in the Chimalkhedi resisted the attempts by the police to break their backs and the struggle.

The floodwaters have been increasing since Saturday (July 26), due to the increased dam height of 100 meters, at alarming proportions, and there are indications that the submergence level will increase further due to the release of 105,000 cusecs water from the upstream Tawa dam. All the 13 gates of Tawa dames were opened at 5 feet level, and the waters are expected to reach at any time in the submergence zone. On July 27 morning, the discharge from Tawa was 150,000 cusecs. More 2,00,000 cusecs were released subsequently. The cumulative impact will be devastating. Along with the villages and farms, of about 12,000 families, the submergence this year will be submerging the 4 Jeevanshalas (schools for life) run by the Andolan since 1992, and the villagers. The Jeevanshalas of Nimgavhan, Bharad, Danel, Udadia, and Jalsindhi are threatened by the submergence this year. Recently the children of Jeevanshala made appeal to save their valley and their right to education in various major towns in Maharashtra. They also met the Governor of the state and apprised him of their grievances and demands.

Medha Patkar