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NBA Press Note                                                 30th May 2000

NIMAD VILLAGERS DEMAND SUSTAINABLE WATER POLICY: JAL VIKAS YATRA LAUNCHED WITH RESOLVE TO RESIST SUBMERGENCE AND DROUGHT

Hundreds of peasants and labourers in the fertile region of Nimad in the Narmada valley have launched the 'Jal Vikas Yatra' (March for Water Development) on Tuesday (May 30, 2000) to reassert their right to live and their right for a sustainable development of land and water resources. The people questioned the development policy which on one hand had brought unprecedented floods and submergence in Narmada last year while creating the man-made drought in Gujarat and even in parts of Madhya Pradesh. They also expressed their resolve to fight against the unjust submergence and displacement.

The slogans of "Jeene do hame rahne do - maa Narmada ko bahne do" (Let us stay and live here and let Mother Narmada flow), "hamaare gaon me-hamaara raj" (our rule in our village) rented the air as hundreds of women and men, along with supporters from outside the Narmada valley launched the vehicle rally through the villages around river Narmada for two days. The rally, now going through the villages on the northern banks of the river will cross Narmada at Khalghat, and will conclude on May 31 (Wednesday) at Anjad, after completing the villages on the southern banks.

"We are against the submergence and large dams. We insist on the sustainable and equitable water management policy in the Narmada valley, where every village and everyone in the village can have the right over the water", said Devram Kanera, the main activist while launching the March from Badwani. "The issues of Narmada valley are related with the rights of the farmers, the valuation of their resources and pricing and marketing of their produce and resources. It is also related with the opposition to the increasing clout of the national and multinational capitalist powers", asserted the young activists of 'Rewa ke Yuwa' (Youths of Narmada). Jagannath Patida made it clear that the issues of displacement, farming, employment, rights of the people, and equality are interrelated.

"The recent drought has exposed the vested interests in Gujarat. The state government is using the drought in Saurashtra and Kutch for bolstering the case of the Sardar Sarovar dam", said Medha Patkar. She further said that, "the dam will not at all solve the water problem of the drought prone area and these vested interests are deceiving the people of Gujarat. However, now the people have recognised their cynical game and are asking for the decentralised and sustainable schemes. The frustrated elements are now blaming and threatening the Narmada Bachao Andolan. However, they cannot keep us from telling and propagating the truth about the dam and the real solutions." Energy and water expert Jitendra Shah from Mumbai also spoke about the falsehood in the claims of Gujarat and said that, "the drought in Gujarat and the floods in Narmada valley are the result of the same development policy".

While narrating the present status of the Narmada struggle and the situation after the completion of Narmada matter in the Supreme Court, Medha Patkar explained how the state governments are unable to show any proper land for resettlement and yet Gujarat government has been insisting on the resumption of the work on the dam.

Kamalabehn Yadav expressed the resolve of the people to defeat the devious ways of state government to displace them. "The non-violent struggle for over fifteen years is going through a crucial stage. We demand complete review of the SSP and no half baked compromise to have a dam with reduced height by some feet will be acceptable to the people".

Ashish Mandloi; Sanjay Sangvai