| NBA Press Release
|| 08 June 2006
CONVENTION ON WATER RIGHTS; VILLAGE COMMUNITIES RESOLVE TO FIGHT TO SAFEGUARD THEIR WATER
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
The farmers, labourers, fisher-folk, men and women of the Narmada Valley have raised yet another challenge to the government today, in the Convention on water which concluded at the Nagar Palika in Badwani today. The special guest at the Convention was Shri Rajendra Singh, renowned Magasaysay-Award winner for his work in reviving rivers and community watershed management work. Together they all raised the battle cry not to lose the rights over the waters of the Narmada river at the behest of the Sardar Sarovar dam! On one hand, the dam is being raised to the height of 122 metres without completing rehabilitation; on the other hand, Gujarat is claiming sole rights over the waters of the river. In this situation, the people living along the banks of the river for centuries in villages and towns like Badwani gathered here to ask the crucial question: why don^Òt we have the right over the water that is at our doorstep when the government wants to take this water all the way to Kut ch? What will happen to the hundreds of hectares of Nimad^Òs land that is irrigated by pipelines from the Narmada if the rights over this water no longer remain with the community? As Rajendra Singhji stated vociferously, this water belongs neither to the government of M.P. nor Gujarat, rather it belongs to those farmers in whose fields the water falls before making its way into the river.
Rajendra Singhji has revived rivers even in the desert of Rajasthan, where rainfall levels are very low. He alerted all those gathered at the convention that after displacing thousands of families from their fertile lands in Nimad by building this large dam, the next ploy of the government would be to take away rights over the water from the local community and give it to large companies. He talked about the 2002 Water Policy and the 2003 WTO agreement whereby water has been turned into a marketable commodity! And this has been shamelessly accepted by our government! It is critical for us to challenge this attack on the most basic resource. Rajendra Singhji called for the people of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to resist this attack on the land, water, irrigation and pipelines by the Sardar Sarovar dam, to accept this challenge and to take the struggle into the next phase.
Medha Patkar said that despite the destruction being unleashed by the Sardar Sarovar dam, which is drowning people without rehabilitation, and thousands of hectares of fertile land will soon be deprived even of its irrigation facilities, now there will be a struggle, which will teach a lesson to Coca-Cola and other companies as well the Government. This struggle will prove that the movement wants development, which means using local resources to satisfy local needs. We will stop the water in our fields, enriching the soil and replenishing the groundwater, and will not let the reservoir fill. Kachar Singh of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, also emphasized the need to satisfy local needs through local resources, and using the right to work as in the Employment Guarantee Act for this purpose of conserving our water and land. He also emphasised the need for collaboration between residents of cities and villages.
The Chairman of the Badwani Municipal Corporation, Mr. Rajan Mandloi talked in detail about the water crisis in Badwani. He explained how the amount of water allocated to Badwani town is based on the population data of 1991, which is 33,000, and thus that the present water supply is bound to be inadequate. And that is why even being 5 kilometres from the Narmada, Badawani gets water only once in 3 days. Even the current water facilities will be drowned by the Sardar Sarovar caused flooding. And the NVDA, which is responsible for making alternative arrangements, has taken a sided decision, which is far from adequate. NVDA^Òs decisions taken without consulting us, members of the municipality, is very unfair. We will have to fight together in this movement.
Lokendra Dhangar also told the gathering that the Saradar Sarovar Project would destroy the irrigation pipelines from the Narmada, which were being used to irrigate large parts of Nimad. This has also been made amply clear by the a letter written by the Gujarat Government dated 29.11.2001 which clearly states that the Gujarat Government has not agreed to any form of lift irrigation from the Narmada.
Ex-Chairman of the Nagar Palika, along with Om Dada Jain, Ambaram Mukati, Devendra Tomar, Sajanbai Yadav, Luharia Bhai and Lokendra Dhangar gave a warning to everyone and took a pledge saying that we will not let anyone loot our lush fields and heritage.
The programme ended with all participants taking the pledge with Rajendra Singh ji.
We, residents of the Narmada valley, for generations, farmers-workers-fisherfolk, boatmen, residents of villages and cities, agree that Narmada is our mother. The waters of the Narmada, the land, trees and forests that are here, are all part of our heritage. Today we will challenge the Government, which is destroying us with the Sardar Sarovar. We will not move without rehabilitation.
The Government, which is snatching away our water, our irrigation, is cheating us. We will not sell our water to increase the riches of foreign companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi. We will protect our right to water and preserve it. We will continue to assert our right over the fish in the river. We will thrive not on the dole of the Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh Governments, but rather on our relationship with our soil, water, trees etc. Our villages strive to fulfill our water needs by making small lakes and small dams.
We will fight, we will win!