NBA Press Note

May 18, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

Dharna of people affected by Narmada dams starts in Bhopal

Maan and Sardar Sarovar affected people will submerge without rehabilitation this monsoon

"Not cash compensation but land can be the basis of sustaining life"

The dharna of the people affected by the Narmada dams began in the Tinshed area of Bhopal today. Nearly 450 people affected by Maan, Maheshwar and Sardar Sarovar dams began their sit in at Bhopal seeking answers to questions relating to their right to life and livelihood. The tribals and farmers believe that the Madhya Pradesh Government has become increasingly insensitive to the issues of tribals in the last some time. The callous behaviour of the government is evident from the recent firings in Mehendikheda as well as submergence of the lands and homes of the tribals affected by Maan and Sardar Sarovar.

The affected people took out a rally in the afternoon and demonstrated at the NVDA (Narmada Valley Development Authority ) office in Bhopal. They were initially barred from entering even the office premises and police was brought in to stop them , but after some argument they were let in. The people asked the authorities present for answers to their questions but to no avail. They submitted a memorandum to them and promised to come back after two days to take the answers.

It is noteworthy that while in Dhar district , half of the total lands and around 80 houses belonging to 6000 adivasis from 17 villages affected by the Maan Project will be submerged this year in the monsoon ,in another part of the valley further downstream the lands and homes of the tribals affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project from the villages of district Jhabua, Dhar and Badwani will be submerged in the SSP reservoir. It is in this context that the people affected by the Maan Project demand that the Madhya Pradesh government should immediately stop work on the dam and rehabilitate with agricultural land in the command area of the Maan dam.

The Sardar Sarovar affected people who will be affected at dam height of 90 m also demanded that the governments must follow the Narmada Award and rehabilitate the people seeking to be rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh rather than Gujarat by buying irrigated , private lands in chunks in Madhya Pradesh. They said that the barren charnoi lands being offered to them was completely unacceptable. They said that it was a matter of shock that the Madhya Pradesh government should not have rehabilitated a single family out of the 33,000 families slated for submergence till today although the people living in Jhabua have been facing submergence since 1994.

The Maan dam affected people also expressed their anguish that despite the knowledge that the height of the canal taker off is 277 m, the government is insistent about increasing the height of the dam from 268m to 272 m before the onset of the monsoon. Even if the work proposed to be done this year that is up to 272 m is completed, it is clear that no water can flow into the canal. What then could be the urgency of submerging the affected people so callously ?

The adivasis and farmers affected by the large dams in the Narmada valley expressed their anger at the Madhya Pradesh government's sole policy of giving cash compensation to the affected people rather than the stipulated land. They said that for the agricultural communities , cash compensation is the road to pauperization and only land can be the basis of sustaining life and livelihood. They said that it is a matter of incomprehension that since the land for land principle is the basis of the rehabilitation policy applicable to the Narmada dams as well as the Central Environment clearances, why the government should respond to the struggle of the people by liberalising the cash compensation package rather than address their responsibility to provide people land ?

They warned the government that this large scale displacement in the Narmada valley will have long term consequences for the state , society and law and order situation in Madhya Pradesh. When lakhs of people are pauperized and put on to the streets, all possibilities of peace in the state will be destroyed. It is therefore imperative that the Madhya Pradesh government review the entire policy of building large dams.

The tribals being affected by the Maan dam also demanded that the government should acquire land in the command area as per the 1985 M.P. Rehabilitation Act and rehabilitate the submerging populations on this land. It is noteworthy that the people from the 17 villages affected by the Maan dam were given a pittance in cash compensation illegally rather than land from 1991-1994. Since 1997, the affected people organized under the Narmada Bachao Andolan and in 1999, after a month long fast and dharna, the government agreed to their demands including the demand for rehabilitation in the command and the principle of rehabilitation before submergence. But since late 2000 , the government violated its own order and began work on the spillway section of the dam. It was in opposition to this that the people of the area laid siege to the dam site in March,2000. The government responded not by rehabilitating the people but by jailing them up to 15 days.

The people of the Narmada valley and the state demand that the people to be displaced by the Maan and Sardar Sarovar Projects should be rehabilitated and that the Maheshwar Project that will become an Enron for the state of Madhya Pradesh destroying the economy , the financial position of the government and the State Electricity Board should be immediately scrapped.

Mangat Verma, Maheshwar dam affected
Mangilal Rawat, Maan dam affected
Kailash Awasia, Sardar Sarovar affected