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SARDAR SAROVAR
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NBA Press Release May 04 1999

PEOPLE READY TO FACE SUBMERGENCE THIS YEAR
NARMADA TRIBALS MEET MAHARASHTRA CM
DEMAND THE STATE TO PRESENT TRUE PICTURE ABOUT R & R IN THE COURT

A delegation of the main activists from Maharashtra villages affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in the Narmada valley met Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mr. Narayan Rane, and demanded that the state government must present the real abysmal status of rehabilitation in the Supreme Court and oppose any increase in the height of the dam. They warned that the people would be left with no alternative but to face submergence if the government succumbs to the Gujarat pressure of increasing the height of the dam unmindful of the resettlement and land availability.

The delegation consisted of the main tribal leaders in the valley including Noorji Padvi, Ranybhau Padvi, Vanaka Padvi, Keshav Vasave, Dedhli Bai alongwith Medha Patkar. They were joined by the representatives of those who have been already displaced and resettled from Maharashtra villages. Jordar Pawra and Ms. Pratibha Shinde of ' Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti' were also the part of the delegation.

The representatives protested against the false information provided by the Maharashtra government to the Supreme Court regarding the displacement and resettlement of the oustees from the state. The government claimed that it has enough land to resettle the oustees even upto the height of 110 meters. In reality, those who have been displaced hitherto are not resettled fully and properly. There have been large scale violations of the stipulations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) regarding the resettlement. Hundreds of the oustees did not get the possession of the land even after their displacement for last 4-6 years. The 4200 hectares of the forest land, cleared in the name of resettlement, consists of 'encroachments' in hundreds of hectares by the earlier tribal settlers. Over 850 hectares of this land is uncultivable. In fact, those who have been 'resettled' previously have been demanding the land. The state government, while claiming the adequate land for resettlement in the court, has at the same time formed the land purchase committee to buy private land for resettlement and had gave in writing to ' Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti' that over 160 Project Affected Families (PAFs) remained to be given possession of the land, it was pointed out. The people already resettled narrated their woes to the Chief Minister. They said that number of families, who were forced to displace have been returning back to their original villages. The people in the original villages, Noorji Padvi and Keshav Vasave pointed out, would face the submergence but will not be cowed down to accept displacement under the threat of submergence, when hundreds of those already displaced have become destitute.

The delegation also pointed out about the futility of the state supporting such a project when it will not benefit to the needy regions of Kutch and Saurashtra and even to the Maharashtra. " Instead, it will be a liability on the state's scarce resources, its forest and tribal villages" said Ms. Medha Patkar. It was explained that the project is set to devour over 5,000 tribal families fro 33 villages in Akkalkua and Akrani tehsile of Nandurbar district. Already 6400 hectares of good forest has been sacrificed in the reservoir and 4200 hectares more was deforested in the name of resettlement. Even then the resettlement could not be achieved, thus prompting the state government to demand more than 1000 hectares of additional forest land. The state has to give about Rs. 1200 crores to as its share in this inter-state project.

In lieu of all this sacrifice, what the state of Maharashtra will gain? The state will not get a single drop of irrigation water. Only a 27% of the generated power is assured. The actual/firm power generation will not be more than 450 megawatts(MW). That too is uncertain, as the new estimates regarding the quantum of water in Narmada show a downward trend. Instead of earlier estimated 28 million acre feet(MAF) water, the new estimates show the availability of only 22.5 MAF. This is futher compounded by the incomplete Narmada Sagar Project (NSP) upstream. All this would cut the power generation nearly 30-40 %. Most important, thestate which has maximum share of power, Madhya Paradesh (57%) has been demanding the lowering of the SSP height from 455 to 436 feet. The 19 feet height was added precisely for the power generation. The Government of M.P. clearly told that it was ready to forego the power benefits to save its land, forest and people. The state has filed a petition in the Supreme Court in March ,1999 demanding the constitution of a new Tribunal to adjudicate of the water sharing and the project planning in the Narmada valley, reduction of the height of the SSP. This has further diluted any hope of whatever little amount of power the Maharashtra government hoped to gain. Thus, the people asked, why Government of Maharashtra has been blindly toeing the Gujarat agenda at the cost of its own people, resources, land and forest? They demanded that, like the Government of M.P., the Government of Maharashtra too must revise its stance regarding the SSP and oppose any further construction on the dam to safeguard its tribal population. The delegation demanded that the state government must present the real picture regarding the rehabilitation and land availability ( that is, non-availability) in the Court.

The Chief Minister assured that he himself would see the facts regarding the dam and the resettlement and would formulate the state policy regarding the dam only in view of the state's interests. The people warned the Chief Minister that they would be facing the submergence due to the increase in the dam height from 80.3 to 85 meters and will not leave their villages under the threat of submergence.

Sanjay Sangvai