NBA Press Note

June 8, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Tel: 0265-282232
58, Gandhi Marg,
Badwani, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07290-22464

Sardar Sarovar would be another Enron for Maharashtra;
State must review cost-benefit of project;
Satyagraha from July 5

As the Narmada valley prepares for the another illegal, inhuman and fatal submergence threatening the farms and houses of over 5000 project affected families in three states, the Maharashtra government has been supporting the further work on the damundermining the rights of its own tribals and thecost-benefit of the project for the state. It is sure that the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) would prove to be another Enron for the state and government has to call a halt and reviewthe project before it is too late. From July 5, the people will launch the Satyagraha against the dam, displacement and submergence at Domkhedi (Maharashtra) and Jalsindhi and the Chhoti Kasaravad (M.P.) near the residence of Baba Amte, confronting the submergence water.

The work on the SSP was stopped at the height of 90 meters and the Gujarat government got the additional 3 meters of humps through pressure tactics and manipulations. This has been done with callous disregard towards the legal provisions in the Narmada Valley Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) award and also the Supreme Court verdict, let alone theconstitutional and human rights of the tribals in theNarmada valley.Even the oustees belowthe dam height of 80 meters have not been resettled fully, the dam was allowed to go upto 93 meters. This was illegal in itself. However, the dam had to be stopped at 90 meters as the Resettlement sub-group and Environment sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) have refused the permission for the increase in the further height of the dam due to the failure to complete the resettlement and the non-fulfillment of the conditions. It is curious that while the government of Madhya Pradesh opposed the increase in the height including the humps, the Maharashtra government endorsed the Gujarat government's stand for erecting humps of additional 3 meters while knowing fully the reality regarding the rehabilitation. It is reprehensible that Maharashtra bureaucrats have no compunctions to sacrifice the lives of the tribals in the state under the pressure of Gujarat and the political leadership turning the blind eye towards this impropriety of the officials. The government of Gujarat and Maharashtra have acted in contravention of even the Supreme Court judgment which stipulates that no construction beyond 90 meters should be undertaken without the permission of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement sub-group of the NCA. After these sub-groups refused the permission for the humps, the Gujarat and Central governments connived to get the permission in a fraudulent way, through the Attorney General of India, falsely claiming that the effective height of the submergence will not increase even after raising the humps. The governments have thus committed the contempt of the court.

At present all the claims of Maharashtra government regarding rehabilitation of the affected tribal families again stand exposed during the public hearings before the Justice (retd.) Dawood committee, appointed by the state government itself. As NBA has been arguing it would have been prudent for the government not to allow work on the dam before the report of this committee is submitted. The officials should have updated the records of the land rights, entitlements of the tribals and prepare the Master Plan for rehabilitation to prove the feasibility of this human task with land for land for the affected families.. However, the bureaucracy and the political leadership of Maharashtra still seem to be subservient more to the interests of the Gujarat capitalists at the cost of the tribals from their own state.

Another Enron

It is now proved that the project is not a solution for the drought stricken areas and the |Sardar Sarovar Project water is not meant for the Saurashtra and Kutch. The Gujarat government has no money for the water resource development in Kutch as 85-90% of the irrigation budget of the state is spent on the single Sardar Sarovar Project. The recent gimmick of the pumping the Sardar Sarovar Project water through the pumps into the canals proves the point. The water is first taken for the metros of Ahmedabad and Baroda while the real needy region remains out of bound. The original drinking water plan of the SSP didn't include any city as beneficiary. Now, therefore the plan seems to have changed and no one knows how much has the original allocation for the Kutch and Saurashtra water has been further reduced. The project is also a liability for the Maharashtra government and its people.

With no irrigation, the state is to get 27% of the electricity that may be produced from the dam. The NBA and other independent experts have shown that the power from the Sardar Sarovar Project would be most uncertain and miniscule for the state. And much of it would be only for a few years As it is the improved calculations prove that the earlier calculations regarding the water in the Narmada river was an overestimation. The upstream Narmada Sagar Project is still to see the completion. As the canals of Sardar Sarovar Project have preceded the dam, the damned water will be diverted for the irrigation from the initial period itself. So the assurance of the first 30 years of major part of electricity generation when the water would not have been used for irrigation now stands negated. Furthermore, the assured (firm) power is far less than the installed capacity of the power generation from the dam. Thus, it is estimated that Sardar Sarovar Project may contribute about 110 MW in the beginning to 20 MW in the end firm power for Maharashtra. That is also uncertain on many technical and economic grounds.

However, Maharashtra is ready to sacrifice the lives and resources of over 5000 tribal families on the banks of Narmada. It has already sacrificed 10,000 hectares of forest, most of it prime forest of the state, in the submergence zone ( 6800 ha.)or in the name of rehabilitation (4200 ha.) . Above all this, the state has to shell anywhere upto Rs. 1200 crores as its share in the project cost. This year, the state government has allocated Rs. 84 crores as share of the Sardar Sarovar Project, while the local and small irrigation schemes in Nandurbar and other needy districts, where the affected villages are also situated, are starving of the funds as is obvious from the successive budget allocations of the state.

The project would prove to be a liability for the state government as in the case of Enron Power Project. The cost of this liability would be borne by the tribals in Maharashtra for the sake of the capitalists in Gujarat. The Maharashtra government is still not ready to issue the order for the review of the cost-benefit of this project to the state, contrary to the formal announcement by the Chief Minister on January 4. We demand that Maharashtra should stop the further construction on the dam and must start the review of the cost-benefit of Sardar Sarovar Project for the state.

As the people in the Narmada valley will be facing the submergence, the government of Maharashtra will face the challenge to its credibility. At this juncture, we expect that Maharashtra government, instead of resorting to the same tactics of arresting and releasing the people facing submergence would respond to the serious issues raised by them. It will be far more fruitful to stop any work on the dam and have a review of the cost-benefit of the dam to the state. It should pursue the basic issues of rehabilitation raised through Dawood committee report and make the master plan of rehabilitation with the consultation and consent of the people and their organization, NBA, in the valley. Maharashtra government has both a challenge and an opportunity to break a new path vis-a-vis Sardar Sarovar Project and the issue of the displacement and development.

Vain Attempts

Of late, some elements have been making baseless allegations on myself and NBA. Among them are some V.K. Saxena from an unheard of National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) from Gujarat and Ms. Jamuna Devi, Deputy Chief Minister from M.P. The NBA has issued legal notice to Ms. Jamuna Devi and file a defamation case against Saxena. They will not be successful in diverting the attention of the struggle in some trivial and patently false matters. At the same time we reassert that all these allegations are baseless and false, aimed to suppress the people's movement, which has been a part of such attempts all over India.

Medha Patkar