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Narmada Bachao Andolan Press Release 3 May 1999

M.P. Government Accepts Most Demands of NBA : Fast Ends
Independent Committee To Review Maheshwar Project

The M.P. Government accepted a majority of the demands of the NBA and issued formal Government orders related to the same yesterday evening. Following this, the 26 days long dharna and 21 days long indefinite fast was ended. As the Government refused to implement the recommendations of its own Task Force related to the Maheshwar Project, an independent committee was asked by the NBA to carry out these recommendations, namely, a complete review of the economic cost/benefit analysis of the project, as also of the displacement and the feasibility of rehabilitation. The struggle on Maheshwar dam will continue.

The Government of M.P. today issued a six part order to formalise the demands of the NBA that it had accepted. The details are as follows:

In the case of the gigantic Narmada Sagar Project, the Government has agreed to stop immediately all work that would lead to increased submergence this year. A review of the project will be carried out by 31.10.99 within the framework of the demand of Government of M.P. for the appointment of the new Tribunal. This review will be carried out with the participation of the project affected people, representatives of the people's movements and experts.

In case of the Upper Veda and Lower Goi dams, where the construction has not yet begun, it has been agreed that a complete alternative plans for providing the same irrigation benefits in the proposed command area will be prepared by a Committee of experts nominated by NBA. A similar plan will also be prepared for decentralised energy / electricity generation in the area. The Committee will be constituted by 31 May 1999 and will prepare the plan in the next six months. Following this, the NBA, in association with the Government will carry out the actual implementation of the plan in about 20 villages in the area.

In case of Maan and Jobat projects, which are ongoing, all work that would lead to submergence in this monsoon will be immediately stopped. A Rehabilitation Committee including the representatives of the oustees would be constituted to plan for the rehabilitation. Apart from other things, this committee will ensure that the rehabilitation of all oustees will be completed six months in advance of submergence. Formally, this is worded in a way that any oustee likely to face submergence by construction carried out upto 15 June of any year (when the monsoons begin) would have to the rehabilitated by 31 December of the earlier year. This means that only that much construction can be permitted as corresponds to the rehabilitation achieved by 31 December.

It was also agreed that rules would be framed within two months for the M.P. Project Affected (Rehabilitation of) Act of 1985, and the Act would be made applicable to the Narmada Projects. It may be mentioned here that this Act provides that the people receiving irrigation in the commands of projects would have to give up part of their lands for the resettlement of the Project Affected People. The Government would acquire the lands compulsorily. This Act, though enacted in 1985, has not been implemented till date - even after 14 years, as vested interests have not allowed even the rules to be framed under the Act, without which it cannot be implemented. The rules will be framed in consultation with the NBA and other concerned parties.

Looking at the increased seismic activity in the Narmada Valley, it was also agreed to revive the Task Force on "Seismic Risks Related to Large Dams in the Narmada Valley" which had been constituted earlier, but which had failed to take off. This Task Force will be asked to give its report by 31 October 1999.

It was also agreed to review the provisions of the Rehabilitation policy which allows cash compensation to be given to the oustees in lieu of land for land, which has been much abused in the past to virtually deny the land-for-land provision. This review would examine the aspects of these provisions that adversely affect or are likely to affect the oustees' interests.

The M.P. State Cabinet yesterday finally cleared three long pending decisions regarding the Bragi dam resettlement. These were a part of the demands of the latest action (fast) also. It was also agreed to review the implementation of the decisions of the Bargi Dam Rehabilitation Planning Committee (a joint Committee of the Government and NBA) which have been taken over the last few years but have not yet been implemented, and the implementation would be taken up within a month.

Regarding the Maheshwar Project, the Government, professing reasons of commitments already made to the private company, refused to accept the recommendations of the Task Force calling for a stoppage of work on the dam and a complete review of the cost benefit of the project. The Task Force has also recommended examination of the feasibility of the rehabilitation. Some small concessions were sought to be made on the issue by the M.P. Government. However, the Andolan decided that it was not interested in minor demands when the fundamental issues remained pending. Hence, it refused to accept the incomplete and trivial concessions that were made to its demands and has given a call that the agitation in the Maheshwar area will be intensified.

Since the Government was not willing to look at the cost /benefit of the Maheshwar project, and other recommendations of the Task Force, the Andolan has invited independent experts to form a committee and carry out these recommendations of the Task Force. This committee includes Shri S.P. Shukla , Former Member, Planning Commission, Shri Vijay Paranjpe, economist with long experience related to dams' issue, and Shri Girish Sant, Energy Expert and Member, Advisory Committee Of Central Electricity Regulatory Authority (all in their personal capacity). The last two experts were also members of the Task Force. Some other eminent experts may also be associated with the committee soon.

The NBA has indicated that struggle in Maheshwar will be intensified as also taken to the people of the State through the help of trade unions, other people's movements. The people are determined to fight this project till the end.

After the Government finally passed formal orders on the various demands, NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit emerged and ended her fast by taking a small amount of fruit juice at the hands of senior worker Shri Poonamchand from Maheshwar area. All the others also ended their fast.

The Andolan re-iterates that the acceptance by the Government of a majority of demands has been a big victory, and a new milestone in the struggle against the large dams and for alternatives in the Narmada Valley. It is hoped that the Government too will keep its words and implement the new orders an open and transparent manner.

Alok Agarwaal,NBA