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Narmada Bachao Andolan Press Release 6 June 1999

Tribals - Peasants of Narmada Valley Will Face the Unjust Submergence
Satyagraha To Begin From 20 June
Further Program To be Announced Later

The tribal villages of M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat in the Narmada Valley are likely to face devastation in this monsoon as the waters behind the Sardar Sarovar dam rise to the new height of 88 m. The people of the Valley have decided that in their struggle for survival and basic human rights they will face these waters with a satyagraha starting from 20 June 1999. The satyagraha will continue through the monsoon.

The dam wall which has gone up from 80.3 m to 88 m in the last three months after the Supreme Court lifted its stay of 4 years, will submerge a few thousand houses / farms in about 50-60 villages. The displacement from this submergence will not only be destructive but also unjust. Submerging in the rising waters will be the land, water and forest resources of the Valley (Jal, Jungle, Jamin), the Gods and spirits (Devedani), the schools run in the Valley by the Andolan (Jeevanshalas) along with the farms and houses on which the very survival of the tribals depends. This years submergence has affected virtually the whole tribal area in the SSP affected zone, and has brought the submergence on the doorsteps of the rich fertile plains of Nimad. Ironically, many of the people who have been "resettled" but who returned from the resettlement sites in frustration as even survival was difficult over there, too will face the submergence this year.

The additional construction came about as the Supreme Court of India lifted partially the four year old stay on raising the height and on 18 Feb. 1999 allowed the construction to proceed to "85 m (from the 80.3 height then) excluding humps". On 7 May 1999, the Court fixed the height of the humps to be "not more than 3 m". In the same Order of 18 Feb., the Court also ordered that the rehabilitation of those affected by the new height should be fully done as per the orders of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA). However, it is clear today that this part of the order has been blatantly violated, and in this monsoon itself, it is likely that about 2500 families will be affected. The people of the Valley cannot accept this injustice.

The people of the Valley, who have struggle determinedly against the destruction of the Sardar Sarovar Project, are determined that they will oppose this year's submergence, and will face the submergence in the Valley itself. This will not only be an expression of the determination of the people of the Valley but also a challenge to the Nation, its democratic structures and the civil society - will it allow the juggernaut of the monstrous dam in the name of development?

The people of the Valley, in the villages to be affected this year from Jhabua District (M.P.), Nandurbar Dist. (Maharashtra) and Gujarat have decided that in a determined "Satyagraha" they will stay put in their villages, will not move themselves nor will shift their houses when the submergence comes. They will be joined by people from other parts of the Valley.

While two "satyagraha centres" will run at villages Jalsindhi (Dist. Jhabua M.P.) and Domkhedi (Dist. Nandurbar, Maharashtra), the satyagraha will also be there in the whole valley as the people in the valley will stay put in their houses from Manibeli to Bhadal (Maharashtra) and Jalsindhi to Kakarana (M.P.).


It is clear now that the claims of lands being available for resettlement, made by the various Governments based on the which the Court gave clearance to the further construction, were false and misleading.

In Madhya Pradesh, out of the 33,000 Project Affected Families (PAFs), it is assumed that about 14,000 will go to Gujarat. Out of the remaining 18,000 to be settled in M.P., the M.P. GOvernment says that only 830 PAFs will need to be given land. However, till date, even 1 hectare of land is not available in M.P. for these people. On the other hand, it is now acknowledged that even from people affected this year, many of the families supposed to go to Gujarat will want to resettle in MP, and there is no land for these PAFs. The grave fate of submergence without any resettlement stares in the face of these PAFs.

In Maharashtra, while the Government claimed that enough land was available to settle all the PAFs up to 110 m of dam height, it now acknowledges that very little land is in fact left with it for resettlement. Not only that, but a few hundred PAFs who were shifted about 3-5 years back are still lying without land at the resettlement sites in Maharashtra. Whatever little land is left, the first claim to it lies with these oustees. In frustration, 21 families of these returned back to their original villages Junane and Selagda in face of imminent submergence on 26 May 1999. This shows the situation of resettlement in Maharashtra.

In Gujarat, a few thousand families at least, claimed by the Government to have been "resettled" are lying at the resettlement sites with bad / uncultivable land, lands affected by waterlogging, other serious problems including drinking water, fodder, fuelwood and so on. The situation of these people is so serious that they are being forced in to debt, migration for labour and of course poverty and penury.

On 1-2 June, the people of the valley went to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the apex multi-state body monitoring the whole project, and the detailed question / answer session revealed that the NCA, in gross violation of its basic duties, had not cross-checked or independently evaluated the information of land availability or the readiness for resettlement claimed by the States.

In such a situation, what option is left to the tribals, farmers, labourers of the Narmada Valley but to stay in the Valley and be prepared to face the waters? This they are determined to do, not only to challenge the injustice and the submergence that threatens their very survival but also to expose the myth of that the Sardar Sarovar project is in national interest.

It may be pointed out that the long struggle of the people has totally shattered the claims of the SSP for being in national interest. The M.P. Government has itself agreed, in its suit filed in the Supreme Court that the power benefits are reduced by 23% from what was initially projected. The new estimates for the water availability reveal that this had been over-estimated by about 18%, and thus the benefits stand reduced by that much. About 25-30 % of the project benefits depend on the upstream Narmada Sagar, which is equally destructive socially and environmentally, and may never be completed. The people of Kutch organised a huge rally recently, against the improper distribution of waters from the project. They said that this project which was being pushed ahead in the name of Kutch, was however delivering only a minuscule portion of its water to the district. They have also gone to Gujarat High Court on this issue. The Government of M.P.- one of the party states - has filed a Suit in the Supreme Court asking for the establishment of a new tribunal to re-evaluate and re-design the Sardar Sarovar.

All this leads to the question - is the death and destruction by waters this year justified? Is the project itself justified ? Can the irreversible submergence before a comprehensive review of the fundamental questions raised by the NBA be warranted? The people of the Valley are saying that they will stand up to this unjustified, unjust destruction by staying put in the Valley this year.

If required, the Andolan is also prepared to intensify the agitation and the announcement of this will be made on 20 June 1999, from the satyagraha centre itself.

Alok Agarwaal
Medha Patkar