NBA Press Release
  02 July 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Narmada Submergence and Displacement: Unprecedented Human Tragedy, Challenge for New Government

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464

The people in the Narmada Valley, struggling for the last 19 years are facing an expected yet unprecedented attack by the State which imposes nothing but destitution. This is obvious from the situation in two of the 30 big dams in the Narmada Valley: Narmada Sagar, in which the township of Harsud with a population of 22,000 is being forcibly evicted, while in the Sardar Sarovar, atleast 150 affected villages in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat are going to be flooded this monsoon.

The large scale submergence in Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) and other dams, is inflicted without any fair and just land acquisition and rehabilitation that was stipulated by the Supreme Court and the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal. As for the SSP, the destruction of life and resources will be unprecedented as no land based rehabilitation is in sight, since the Government of Madhya Pradesh has not rehabilitated a single family with agricultural land in any of the dams built in the river basin till date. Lakhs of people, Adivasis in the ranges of Satpuda and Vindhyas, along with the farmers-labourers. with artisans, traders in the prosperous region of Nimad will face destruction during this monsoon The submergence will take toll of the best agricultural land with horticulture, centuries old temples, mosques and cultural sites and monuments, with houses, when dam related flooding occurs, in thickly populated villages and hilly adivasi communities, in Madhya Prad esh, Maharashtra and a few in Gujarat.

Height of Politics

The Supreme Court judgement 2000, stands violated as the governments are all out to commit contempt of the court order for full resettlement before any increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam. It was the electoral gimmick of Narmada which Modi used and Uma Bharti supported that resulted in the Narmada Control Authority, more an engineer's body than a multi-disciplinary monitoring body, permitting the raise in the height of Sardar Sarovar dam to 110.64 meters. With about 1500 families in Maharashtra and 10,000 families in M.P. still living in the Sardar Sarovar Project-100 meters affected region, such a decision was an inhuman conspiracy against the people of the Valley. Narmada Sagar too was pushed to its attained height of 245 meters, without following a single legal process leave aside rehabilitation, by the Narmada Hydropower Corporation and the State Corporate Powers.

In the case of the giant plan of "harnessing Narmada waters", it is now obvious the projects are flawed with distorted economics and without caring and compensating for environmental destruction, despite fake reports on compensatory afforestation. Moreover, even at the present height, both the dams will not bring any water benefit to Madhaya Pradesh or Maharashtra. Sardar Sarovar, at the cost of human disaster will produce not more than 30 MW of power in seasons with water stock available.

Sardar Sarovar is already in a financial mess since the cost has gone up to 44,000+ crores as the official documents show. Also an almost impossible plan of Gujarat to spend 25% of its State annual budget on this single dam and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited to pay Rs. 12, 682 crores by 2013 to its 4 lakh investors as loan and interest may also take its toll. The money is just not available for completing the canals and drinking water supply network, why also for paying the investors. If at all, it will be at the cost of the Social services as well as other projects including water supply through cheaper and short term measures in Gujarat. The states of Madhya Pradesh & Maharashtra are yet to pay their dues since the dispute over interest balance payment is on and serious. The canal network is not ready and other water schemes in Gujarat are suffering. It is due to this, the waters taken out of the partial reservoir, with the blood of the Narmad a Valley dwellers flowing in it, couldn't be and can't be fully taken to the fields and houses of Gujarat, and much of it will flow into the sea, although through Sabarmati.

Larger Issue

The centralized water bodies created by the wrong approaches in the past are thus a challenge for the new government. Tehri, the dams in the Krishna basin or Narmada, all have more or less the same story. It is a story of bad economics, only partial attainment of benefits, huge cost overruns distorting economic appraisals and violations of human rights with regard to those who sacrifice but become victims. More than 5 crore people have been ousted by the dams and not less than 60% are Adivasis. It is a shame on nation that even 20% of the evictees could be resettled as yet.

It is in this context that Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) would like the new government in power and its allies to review and revamp its water policies, towards a decentralized, sustainable & less or non-destructive water management. Discarding the plans for privatization of water through Foreign Direct Investment and also reverting back to the past ways of diverting water resources to the urban elite first, which is another kind of 'privatisation' and 'control' of resources, there is a need to give due primacy to local harnessing. This would go well only if the Panchayat and Gram Sabha orientation, referred to in the Prime Minister's speech only yesterday is honestly followed and reflected into every sector policy, including water and power. The agenda of Right to Work and generation of Employment highlighted in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA can also be best achieved through labour intensive land and water management projects. The people's organisations would demand that an urgent National Consultation on Water projects, issues and policy should be organized jointly by the Ministries for Water Resources, Social Justice and Empowerment, Environment and Rural Development. The same should also review the National Policy for Resettlement and Rehabilitation, which was hurriedly and secretively passed by the NDA Government. The alternative drafts of the Policy on Rehabilitation must instead be discussed and finalised. The upcoming budget too must set these dimensions and have those reflected into the allocations- not for large dams or inter river basin plans but intra river basin management beginning with the micro units.

We in the Narmada Struggle are resolved to continue and take up the challenge of destructive flooding this monsoon and at the same time are keen to have a dialogue with the new government unless we are compelled to take to streets again.

Ashish Mandloi
Medha Patkar