NBA Press Note

March 25, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
62, M.G.Marg,
Badwani, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07290-22464

Lifting Narmada Waters Vindicates NBA's Position;
Demand Official Statement on Urban Allocation and Benefits to Kutch and Saurashtra

The Narmada Waters flowing into the SSP canals, the Ajwa reservoir for Baroda city, taps in Ahmedabad or even upto Gondal through Mahi vindicates the position taken by NBA over years. We had always claimed that the reservoir waters can be lifted and put into canals, and taken away (through centre of Gravity principle) to Kutch and Saurashtra. Against the government propaganda, our claim was that water can reach the drought-affected areas even at 80mts height in 1995 onwards.

Any further raise of dam height will have an adverse effect on the already fragile seismological zone, where the dam is being built. In the aftermath of the devastating Gujarat earthquake, there needs to be caution about this aspect about large dams and emphasised. Before any further construction, proper seismological and geological studies have to be carried out and in the absence of that, Gujarat and adjoining areas will be under the threat of further devastating earthquakes. Instead, proper and effective use of water at the present height will be much feasible.

The government, on the other hand, was linking the height of the dam with possible coverage of area to the benefit of irrigation and water supply, rejecting the possibility of waters flowing to either Ahmedabad or Kutch and Saurashtra without raising the height. The waters, we assert, can even be taken to Kutch and Saurashtra at the present height. It's now witnessed by the people of Gujarat that politicians-bureaucrats nexus had been fooling them all these years and they will further be betrayed unless certain questions and demands are raised.

First of all, as only one Minister, Mr.Rupala had stated, Gujarat can receive its full benefits even at the present height by pumping the water. There is a full plan of storing water in small ponds all over the command area which can provide work in the immediate future, cost much less and can be filled during monsoon, with flood waters, without raising the height. Why is Gujarat not considering the plan presented by water resource experts?

Second, the waters reaching Gondal through Mahi should include extra, unused waters of Mahi reservoir too, which is estimated to be somewhere between 1 to 2 MAF and not a small quantum. Similarly Narmada waters at Cambay, downstream of the dam is available for pipeline scheme which can serve whole of Saurashtra and part of Kutch within Rs.1100 crores. Why is government shy of giving priority to these schemes and not giving in for the best of waters easily available without the monstrous dam?

Third, the water supply to Ahmedabad and Baroda cities before it reaches villages in the drought-affected areas today indicate that the state government has changed its original plan to include cities. People may look into the publicity material and official literature of last 15 years and before published by Sardar Sarovar Nigam to know that SSP waters were not to be supplied to cities only 135 towns and initially about 4000 villages were to receive water. Later, the number of villages was doubled and now the cities are to be the beneficiaries without any change in the percentage allocation to drinking water at the cost of irrigation area. If every way, the Saurashtra and Kutch region which is even otherwise to receive irrigation for 9% and 2% of their cultivable area only are to be at a loss as the early stretches in the command (beneficiary area) will take away a major chunk of water. Shouldn't the people of Gujarat demand a public declaration on magnitude of water allocation to rural and urban areas and then to the Kutch and Saurashtra (not to be used as a bet but as real beneficiaries).

Last but not the least, the dam, as per the latest statement by ex-minister, Narmada would cost not less than Rs.25,000 crores. The figure worked out from government documents tell us that the final cost, if the project is completed, can't be less than Rs.44,000 crores.

Pushing the dam height again would require not only raising such a colossal amount but also making available agricultural land and resettlement sites for about 40,000 families that are still inhabiting the villages in the three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and largest number in Madhya Pradesh on prime agricultural land and best horticulture land. Thousands of families downstream (Garudeshwar to Bharuch) have begun facing and will face serious water and fisheries problem with river blocked and no water allocated to those areas in the original, flawed plan.

All this will take decades and can be pushed at a huge cost - human displacement, environmental loss including high seismic risks as also stalling all small projects: tanks, check dams, repair and desiltation in old projects in the needy areas as we saw the possibility of, in Kutch itself. What will the people's choice be against the corrupt and callous politicians-bureaucrats nexus in such a situation? The Outlook story, one can't forget, identified Mr.Bhupesh Chudasama, Chairman, Sardar Sarovar Nigam as one of the politicians linked with the builders. Will someone demand investigation into already dug out and published instances of corruption in SSP and beyond?

The seismic risk-factor can't be forgotten either. Narmada flows on the Narmada-Sone Lineament which is a rift and fault zone. 30 big dams and 135 medium dams are planned on it, without complete, comprehensive, cumulative impact-assessment, as per the judgment by Justice Bharucha. The dam was cleared in 1987 only with a condition that all impacts should be studied and compensatory/mitigatory action plans prepared by 1989. The areas to be studied included seismological risks. The same was not completed and the clearance lapsed as proved in the Supreme Court and accepted by one of the three eminent judges even though it was rejected as minority.

With Latur earthquake, the seismic map of India is changed and the peninsular shield (with Gujarat, Maharashtra and part of Madhya Pradesh) has became seismically quite active. The latest earthquake with epicentre at Bhachau has been shown to be an extension of Narmada-Sone Lineament spread from Jabalpur till Bhavnagar. This is according to none else but Dr.Harsh Gupta (his statement to the press on Jan 27th, director, National Geophysical Research Institute and chairman of the 500 scientists team that worked on a remapping of seismic hazards in India. The work of converting the hazards-map into a risk-map is on. There is no doubt that the seismic risk is Narmada Sone Lineament is triggered off. The dam not having damaged this time as the epicentre was far off doesn't mean anything. It doesn't prove anyone wrong or right. Even if tomorrow, an earthquake appears near the dam-site (as it happened in Koyna, Bargi and Sukta dam in Narmada Valley, and is happening in Idukki dam area in Kerala - phenomenon termed as Reservoir Induced Seismicity) the dam may remain safe but not the much weakened buildings in the affected zone. Who would be responsible? Dr.P.P.Patel, water resource expert and a team of scientists who studied the earthquake, have concluded the risk in their report.

It is, therefore, necessary and urgent that people of Gujarat who lose at the nature's wrath triggered as man-made disasters, demand a thorough investigation into seismic risk before any further work on the big gigantic Sardar Sarovar is taken up. Displacement or devastation can't be avoided unless the civil society rise up to challenge the selfish politicians bluffing them through every scandal. SSP will be much bigger than Tehelka, we warn.

Medha Patkar