NBA Press Release
  22 May 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

A Note on Raising the Sardar Sarovar Dam to 100 Metres

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

A. Situation in Madhya Pradesh

Of Displacement and Resettlement

In Madhya Pradesh, according to the state government’s own admission last year, there were 7913 project affected families (out of 12444 in all three states) affected by 100 m. height of the dam, while there were 12,681 PAFs (out of total 18,000) below 110 m. height. Out of them 3360 were resettled in Gujarat and 1670 in M.P. (below 100 m.) and of those below 110, 353 in Gujarat and 2089 in Gujarat were resettled. In fact all these figures are suspect. Whether these much oustees were actually resettled with land in M.P. and whether so many thousands of people shifted to Gujarat is very doubtful.

Even if we take the government figure at face value, some 2883 PAFs below 100 meters and 6949 PAFs below 110 meters still remain to be resettled. These figures are again presuming the total number of oustee families in the SSP upto 40,999. But last year itself the M.P. government had made it clear that the total number is 43,000, so the number of Madhya Pradesh PAFs has invariably increase. Besides, as and when more and more so called ‘undeclared’ oustees will be declared as PAFs, the number of PAFs will rise.

Everyone concerned knows that, it is practically impossible even otherwise the Nimad villagers, with fertile land and large, well-settled villages bustling with agrarian, commercial and social activities, before the incoming monsoon.

There is no cultivable land available to resettle them. The 4900 hectares which the state government claims to have identified, in itself paltry in view of enormity of resettling at least 33,000 PAFs, was rejected long back as it was thorny, stony, uncultivable and scattered in different villages, after a joint survey with the officials. Even the land records of the affected villages in Jhabua district, the first to face submergence in M.P., are incomplete. The so called ‘resettlement villages’ in M.P. are deserted as there is no cultivable land around them.

The M.P. government has resorted to the illegal means of compelling the people to accept disbursing cash compensation to the oustees – which is a clear violation of the NWDT and Supreme Court order. Even very recently, Digvijay Singh had committed in his written reply to our letters that his state would ensure strict compliance with the Tribunal Awards and the Supreme Court Judgment.

Sardar Sarovar and M.P.

The SSP will be just a heavy burden on already impoverished Madhya Pradesh economy. Madhya Pradesh will not get any irrigation from the project. The only benefit is the electricity, which again is uncertain as Gujarat has started drawing water from the bye-pass tunnel at 90 meters, instead of 110 meters of canal.

There is no financial planning and recently Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) castigated the project authorities for a situation where 22% of the expenditure was diverted for repaying the debt. The project will cost the M.P. state around Rs. 4000-5000 crores.

The Digvijay Singh government itself, in a civil suit in the Supreme Court of India, filed in 1998, demanded the reduction of the height of the dam as it could not resettle the oustees and state wishes to save the fertile land of Nimad. It had made clear there is no land to resettle all the 33,000 Madhya Pradesh PAFs and the state has no money for the measures to ameliorate environment degradation, one of the 8 basic conditions put by Union Environment Ministry in 1987, for the clearance. In lieu of the decreasing height, the state had offered to compensate Gujarat for any losses in power generation.Why the M.P. government abruptly changed its stance when the ground situation remains the same, or even worsened?

The claim by the Chief Minister that he was ready to hand over the resettlement task to Narmada Bachao Andolan is incompatible with the fact that the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet had rejected in writing the proposal by the NBA in 2002 for a Joint Survey and Resettlement Planning. NBA has been a part of Task Force appointed by the Government of Maharashtra in September 2001 and even before that a part of the Joint Resettlement Committee for Bargi dam oustees – the first dam on Narmada river.

B. Situation in Maharashtra

Task Force Facts

The previous Vilasrao Deshmukh government in Maharashtra had maintained that it had no land for the resettlement of the tribal oustees of the state. It had also appointed a joint Task Force, in September 2001, with the participation of Narmada Bachao Andolan and other organizations, to assess the extent and magnitude of the displacement, the status of the resettlement of tribals in Maharashtra. The Task Force had finished its job in 2002 itself and had come out with shocking revelations.

According to the Task Force, there are 568 families DECLARED as affected at 95 meter of dam, and 1088 more are ‘undeclared’ ones, about whom process of assessment had to start instantly with Grievence Redreesal Authority (GRA), headed by Justice (Rtd) Mr. Kurdukar., as they have all the required documents and are over 31 years of age, thus fulfilling the norm. The GRA has been announcing the previously undeclared people as PAFs and over 250 PAFs were newly declared as oustees.

Added to these 1656 PAFs are, 1277 more families which need to be declared oustees, by extending the cut-off date of 1987 that need to be resettled. The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and Justice (Retd) Mr. Daud committee – another state government appointed committee in 2001 - have given such directions. Moreover, there are 500 families already in the Resettlement sites waiting for the Promised Land and housing plus other facilities.

Then there are people affected by the submergence water encircling – if not submerging – their villages/lands and the land will become inaccessible and useless. The Task Force had also ordered a survey of these lands, which is yet to start.

There is major problem of the ‘encroachers’ in the forest. In fact people have been living there since generations - but they are treated as ‘encroachers’, due to the inability of the State to complete the Land Settlement in time. This process has started a few years back due to the Supreme Court order. The enumeration work is going on haphazardly. NBA had filed in Mumbai High Court a petition to grant land rights to these ‘encroachers’ in the 73 villages in Akrani tehsil, out which 24 are SSP affected. The Court has asked the state govt. to expedite the process. What about them?

C. Situation in Gujarat

To justify the gross violation of human and democratic rights of tribals and peasants of Narmada valley, the Gujarat government has resorted to yet another political hype and hoopla over transporting the Narmada water through pipeline to Kutch. The transportation of Narmada water though pipeline is but an old idea, time and again flaunted and cancelled by Gujarat powerholders in the 1990s.

When the dam height was 80 meters, the then Narmada Development Minister in the first Ministry of Kesuhbhai Patel in 1995, claimed that entire Saurashtra could be provided Narmada water through pipeline with the expenditure of Rs.100 crores. NBA had welcomed that suggestion then and wondered if it was possible to provide water to Saurashtra with such a minimum cost, the government should have gone ahead with it.

It is odd why on earth the Gujarat government waited till the summer of 2003, when the people could have been provided the piped Narmada water much before? It seems that the ensuing elections have provided another opportunity for Narendra Modi to milch the holy Narmada cow again. He had done this twice before, in Rajkot in 2001 when he was contesting a bye-election from there and later in Ahmedabad in 2002 when, again, he announced elections. At both the places, the short-lived Narmada waters might have reaped electoral bounty, but did little to alleviate the chronic water problem.

Again, this is just the ‘drinking water’ component of the promised Narmada water. The major assurance in the Narmada Project is that of the irrigation water for 37,000 hectares of cultivable land in Kutch. It must be pointed out that out of proposed irrigation of 18 lakh hectares from the project, at the most 1.6% of the total cultivable land in Kutch (37,000 ha.) and 9.2% land of Saurashtra would get water from the Project.

This water too is an illusion. It is only a matter of time, when politically powerful areas, which lay between the dam and Kutch, from Bharuch, Baroda, Ahmedabad, Kheda to North Gujarat, will claim that Narmada water. It is now clear that the Gujarat government has no political will to implement the long term, sustainable and decentralized water-management plan, as it is the real and lasting solution for the drought prone areas. Nearly 85-90% of Gujarat budget is consumed by the SSP, leaving no money for other projects and schemes.

It is the tears of tribals and peasants in Narmada valley that Modi and his ilk are playing with. It is all the more painful to see Digvijay Singh and Sushilkumar Shinde supporting Modi, going out of way for facilitating his objectives – electoral or otherwise- by violating legal provisions and the constitutional and human rights of the tribals and peasants in their state. Even if one supports the dam, there is no need to rush to submerge their own people without a proper land-based resettlement, with the participation and consultation with the people’s organization. That much these CMs could have done, despite intense pressure from Gujarat Chief Minister, Prime Minster’s office and the Union Home Minister, a staunchest supporter of Narendra Modi in this case also.

Sanjay Sangvai