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.).
FALSE CLAIMS OF LAND AVAILABILITY
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
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
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.