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NBA Press Release                                                 23rd May 2000

REDUCTION IN SSP HEIGHT WON'T SOLVE BASIC ISSUES
COMPLETE REVIEW OF SSP AND OTHER DAMS IN NARMADA VALLEY IS REAL ANSWER

It appears that moves are afoot for reducing the height of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) from 455 to about 436 feet, through some hackneyed compromise between the concerned governments. This may be done without informing and taking into confidence the people in the Narmada Valley.

If this is done, it will amount to evading all important issues regarding the dam, including the displacement, resettlement and cost-benefit of the project, which the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has been raising all these years. Even if the height of the dam is reduced, all the issues that are now being raised will also equally be applicable to that reduced height. Reducing the height of the dam by a few feet is not the solution in itself. It can be at best the first step towards the direction of the complete review of the dam with the people's participation. The NBA has already pointed out at number of sustainable and decentralised alternatives for water and land management in the drought-prone areas of Gujarat and for the Narmada valley.

The concerned governments and the people at large must know that reducing from present 455 feet to 436 feet will not solve the basic issues of displacement, resettlement, land availability, cost-benefit of the dam and environmental aspects. Even at the reduced height the adivasi (tribal) area of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh would be submerged along with the substantial area of the fertile Nimad region in M.P. It will negate the rationale of the civil suit filed by Government of Madhya Pradesh, in 1999, for the appointment of the new tribunal for the review of the Narmada projects.

Moreover, it would also be incongruent in the context of the recent report of the Task Force, appointed by the Madhya Pradesh government. The Task Force makes a forceful plea for a decentralised and sustainable water management and provides alternatives for water and energy management.

We warn all the concerned governments that the struggling people in the Narmada valley will not accept any such haphazard move and reassert that the people demand the complete review of this project and entire Narmada valley development Plan with the people's participation.

Court Order

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has reserved its order after the final hearing on May 9, in the public interest litigation filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) against the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). The court has, meanwhile ordered the three Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs, two newly established in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and the one set up in Gujarat early last year - headed by Jst. (Retd) P.D.Desai) to examine the claims of the three state Governments about lands said to be available for resettlement for all the oustees of the project upto the full height. The GRAs are to make field surveys and report about the availability and suitability of the lands by 1 July.

The Court has asked the newly established Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh - headed by Jst. (Retd) Kurudkar and Jst. (Retd) Sohoni respectively, to examine the ground realities about the resettlement carried out so far in these two states, assess whether the rehabilitation has been according to the Tribunal Award, and report back to the Court with at least an interim report on 1 July.

It is expected that the Court will give the judgement only after receiving these reports.

Sanjay Sangvai