NBA Press Release
  12 June 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Ministry of Environment and Forests orders stoppage of work on Maheshwar dam; Project authorities violate conditions of clearance; Maheshwar Project should be scrapped in national and state interest

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-233162
Email: nobigdam[at]sancharnet.in

In a very significant development, the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests vide its letter issued on the 9th June 2006, directed the Government of Madhya Pradesh to stop the construction work on the Maheshwar Project being built in the Narmada valley with immediate effect, under powers given to the Ministry under Section 5 of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986. The Ministry has ordered that this work should remain stopped until a comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan is submitted by the Project authorities to the Ministry and the same is found implementable by the Monitoring Committee after its second site meeting. This Order has confirmed and vindicated the concerns of the Narmada Bachao Andolan about the lack of any credible Rehabilitation Plan or availability of land for the oustees of this Project. In the light of the above mentioned Order of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the NBA and the oustees of the Maheshwar dam demand that the State Government stop the work on the dam with immediately.

It may be noted that the Maheshwar Project was accorded the environmental clearance on the 7th of January 1994. As per the conditions of the clearance, the rehabilitation of the oustees of the Maheshwar dam was to be completed by 1997-1998. In 1997-98, when work started on the Maheshwar dam, the NBA found that there was no rehabilitation plan for the Project and the land figures shown to be available for R&R at the time of Project clearance were in fact faulty and fudged.

On a petition made by the NBA, in 1998, the Ministry of Environment sent a team of representatives from three Central Ministries - Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Central Water Commission (Ministry of Water Resources) to investigate the situation. The Tour Report of the team confirmed that there was no land available for rehabilitation and no credible Rehabilitation Plan existed for the Project. The 1998 Report of the Task Force constituted by the Madhya Pradesh Government to review the Maheshwar Project and the Report of the German Development Ministry of 2000 given when the Project suppliers had asked the German Government for a guarantee also confirmed that neither land nor plan existed for the rehabilitation of the oustees of the Project.

On the 1st of May 2001, the environmental clearance for the Project was transferred to the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited - a company promoted by the S.Kumars group to which the Project had been handed over after privatization in 1992. It was a condition of the Ministry that a comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan be handed over to the Ministry by December 2001. This was not done. When the Monitoring Committee constituted by the Ministry visited the area in February 2002, and they found that there was no Rehabilitation Plan, they directed that such a Plan should be prepared and submitted to the Ministry. However such a Rehabilitation Plan has not been submitted till date.

In the interim, because of willful default by the S.Kumar's companies on certain loans taken by them for the Project, the dam properties were attached and the dam work was stopped between 2001 and 2006. The work re-commenced a few months ago. The NBA then served a legal notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests through Supreme Court counsel Shri Prashant Bhushan informing the Ministry that although work had once again begun on the Project, no Rehabilitation Plan or cultivable and irrigable land was actually available for the rehabilitation of the nearly 20, 000 affected families or 1,00,000 oustees of the 61 villages affected by the Project. The legal notice pointed out that in the absence of the Plan and land to rehabilitate the farmers, and given that an additional 8000 river-workers who earned their living in these villages by cultivating river draw-down, fishing, sand quarrying etc had been left out altogether from the ambit of rehabilitation entitlements because of certain omissions in the new clearance, dam work was not only illegal but would lead to the unfolding of a huge human tragedy. On the 11th of May 2006, hundreds of oustees from the Maheshwar dam protested outside the Offices of the Ministry of Environment and Forests at Delhi against construction of dam work in the light of non-compliance with conditions of the environmental clearance.

After investigating the complaint of the NBA, on the 9th of June 2006, the Ministry of Environment issues a letter to the Government of Madhya Pradesh under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. In the letter the Ministry has written

" I am directed to bring tot he notice of the Government of Madhya Pradesh that it has been brought to the notice of this Ministry that M/s Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited have started construction at the site on their 400 MW Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Project (400 MW) near Mandleshwar town, Khargonre district in violation of the conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance letter of even number dated 1st May 2001,. Para 3(vi) of the aforesaid clearance letter had required the project authorities to submit a complete R&R Plan with details of proposed housing units, agricultural lands identified/ required/developed, implementation schedule, etc to this Ministry by December 2001. This Plan is yet to be submitted to this Ministry. The Monitoring Commitee constituted by this Ministry vide Order No. J 11016/120/ 83-IA-I dated 1st May 2001 referred in Para 3(x) of the environmental clearance letter after inspecting the project site in February 2002 had also directed the project authorities to prepare a comprehensive R&R Action Plan with an implementation schedule and submit it before the financial closure is achieved and construction work is to be started.

The Central Government therefore in exercise of its powers under Section 5 of the Environmental (Protection Act, 1986 hereby directs the Government of Madhya Pradesh to get the ongoing work at the Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Project site suspended with immediate effect till a comprehensive R&R Plan is submitted by the project authorities and the same is found to be implementable by the Monitoring Committee after its second site meeting. A compliance report in this regard may kindly be sent at the earliest."

In the last ten years the NBA has been leading the struggle of the oustees against the destructive Maheshwar dam. The public concerns repeatedly raised by the NBA in the last 10 years about the absence of any credible rehabilitation plan or land for the R&R has been re-confirmed by the present order of the MOEF.

The NBA also expresses its deep concern about the various financial irregularities in the Maheshwar Project as brought out in the Reports of the CAG and public financial institutions and the criminal proceedings including charges of "criminal conspiracy" framed against the Promoters. It also calls on the Government of Madhya Pradesh to scrap this technically un-viable Maheshwar Project that is slated to produce very little and very expensive power and which will destroy not only the Narmada valley but also the financial situation of Madhya Pradesh because of the Power Purchase Agreement adverse to the interest of the state. The State government will have to decide whether it wants to serve the interests of the farmers and people of the state by reducing the 42% T&D losses and making cheap and sufficient electricity available to them or serve the profit-seeking agenda of the international power equipment suppliers who want assured markets for their equipment by the reckless construction of new and expensive generation plants in the state.


Alok Agarwal
Sushilabai
Bhagwan Birle
Chittaroopa Palit