| NBA Press Release
|| 14 June 2008
Massive Corruption and Technical Flaws Have Caused the SSP Canal Breaches
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
The major 40 feet wide breach in the Narmada Main Canal in Kadi Tehsil, Mehsana District, Gujarat has not only raised all questions related to the massive surface canal network of the giant Sardar Sarovar Project, but has put the lives of the canal-adjacent villages in jeopardy. The breach which drowned property and farms with houses and agricultural produce in not less than 8 villages is not the first, but the fourth one. Twice before, in 2003 and 2004, when the main canal breached in Pavi Jetputr Tehsil of Vadodara District, not less than 18 villages were affected ;they too lost property and farm produce, yet were neither compensated, nor protected from future danger. The news was suppressed with all efforts, only to push the Project, and Modi's politics ahead. The whole of the canal network, which is far from completed, (but the main and branch canals are in place) is now considered unsafe, and the Government of Gujarat is finally compelled to go in for technical survey of the 458 km long Narmada Main Canal, which should at least bring out the 'mouse from underneath the carpet'. (This, of course, is not the mouse that ate away the canal, as declared by Jainarayan Vyas, the Minister for Narmada!)
After having turned the 'canal-beneficiaries' into the 'canal-affected', the Govt. of Gujarat along with the contractors and bureaucrats must not merely be allowed to 'bridge the gap', (which they will anyway have to do), but be made to take full responsibility for pushing the Project to a dangerous point, one hopes not of 'no return'. The Govt. of Gujarat and its Chief Minister also have taken to 'quick compensation' only in cash, for no reason, but to mend the damage done to the Prestigious Project, which they have had over-praised and fradulently acclaimed, hiding all inadequacies, irregularities and illegalities. They know, they canít do it anymore in Gujarat as they did in the case of thousands of Project-affected families in the Narmada valley, who are pushed into the 'submergence zone', without rehabilitation, with adivasis even losing their lands and houses and pushed to the hilltops with no livelihood. The rest, not less than 1.5 lakh people at the present dam height of 122 mts and at least 50, 000 people at the full height (if built to 138.68 mts) are in the to-be-affected zone with a sword hanging over their heads and hearths.
The Government of Gujarat also never fully and fairly compensated and rehabilitated the 23, 500 families, who lost more than 25% of the family's land to the canal, in spite of the Government resolutions, discriminating them and the colony affected, 6 villages in and around the Kevadia Colony and the dam site from the reservoir affected, in the most unjust way.
THE ISSUES WITH THE UNMANAGEABLE AND NON-FEASIBLE CANAL NETWORK, ARE MANY.
FIRST, there is massive corruption brought about by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Reports; for example, the CAG Report for the State of Gujarat (Commercial), for the year ending March 31st, 2007 considered the Sardar Sarovar Nagar Nigam Limited (SSNNL) as responsible and guilty for spending 16.78 crores on cement works of Vallabhipur Branch Canal, without a master plan i.e. prematurely and further losing 1.92 crores for interest on the money borrowed. Irregularities were also found in the branch canal and sub-branch canal works in issuing of tenders which should be expected to have led to poor quality works. But beyond this, the frequent breaching of minors and whatever inadequate sub-minors are built, faced by villagers and information from those who worked on the canals throughout, tells us that contractors have misappropriated finances and quality works throughout is poor and subject to a risk of breaching.
SECOND, canals have led to huge water logging due to wrong alignments. A section of media has reported an official saying it was to avoid displacement of families and villages that the SSNNL had to go in for curved canals, leading to breaches. Is this a new happening? Why was it not made public and a warning not issued to the people on the banks of the canal? How many more would have been affected, when 60, 000 families have already lost less or more land to the canals, yet not recognized by the SSNNL? The fact is, alignments have not followed, perfect technical norms and the siphoning arrangements for draining natural rain water are not only inadequate, but also of a poor quality. This has resulted in huge areas getting water logged including Jambusar region in Bharuch for a few days in 2005.
THIRD, the pre-condition stipulated by the Planning Commission its conditional clearence in October 1998 that the drainage works have to be completed in advance have also been totally flouted. Itís very clear from the reports of the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of the Narmada Control Authority till May 2008, that the Command Area Development works are absolutely incomplete and hence the ESG and NCA have not even, as was told to us, during official dialogue in April 2008! The MoEF has also written the MoWR to stop financial assistance for Command Area Development works.
Moreover, when not even all available waters are taken to the main canal from the reservoir, as per official information received under RTI, which was that even without full fleged functioning of the canal network disaster is occuring. What if and when 40,000 cusecs water is taken into the network, one canít say.
Itís also worth mentioning that the Government of Gujarat try to conceal shortcomings, flaws and incompleteness while fradulently pushing the project and raising the dam height for which, it claimed on oath (affidavits) before the Supreme Court, that the benefit is not attained and water is wasted only due to lower height and this in a way, provided false data to the Supreme Court.
The worst, while the Central Govenrment under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Program has provided Rs. 8377 crores for the canal system works till 2007, only 61941 hectares of irrigation is achieved as against 4,35,834 ha potential created and 8 lakh ha of irrigation potential planned!
The total costs of the project, on the other hand, has gone up from 6406 crores (1988) to 45,000 crores as per the working group of the Water Resources of the XI plan of the Planning Commission, without any review of the benefit-cost ratio.
In spite of all these, the statement of Jay Narayan Vyas, former minister of Narmada, ridicules the problem. With all non-seriousness, he has claimed even before and without investigation that the Chief Minister has promised, that there is no technical flaw and that the reasons could include underground gnawing of the canal by mice! This must awaken the people of Gujarat beyond the oustees and the earthquake affected, when much more disastrous impacts are likely.
The project must stop here and be reviewed.Medha Patkar