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

Yet Another Gimmick By Modi With Tears Of Displaced Tribals

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The Gujarat government has resorted to yet another political hype and hoopla over transporting the Narmada water through pipeline to Kutch. The entire exercise is to whitewash the Narendra Modi government’s criminal act of raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam upto 100 meters while trampling upon the human rights of the tribals and farmers in the Narmada valley. Yet another attempt to stifle voices of protest and accusation against such an unjust and illegal act. It is also aimed to preemptively suppress inconvenient questions by the people and organizations in Kutch about the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP). It a cruel jubilation, at the cost of the lives of ousted people in the valley.

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 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 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 milk 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. Rajkot has the water problem again and the Central Gujarat is facing acute water crisis despite the gimmick of putting Narmada water in Sabarmati.

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 piped drinking water too is an illusion. The other politically powerful areas, which lay between the dam and Kutch, from Baroda-Ahmedabad to North Gujarat, are yet to lay claim on that water, which they surely will do. If the Gujarat government wishes to take the water straight to Kutch through some ‘express canal/pipeline’ let it declare so. 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. The Gujarat people, like those in the Narmada valley, will have to be vigilant about the games that are being played in the name of Narmada waters.

They must also realize that it is the tears of tribals and peasants in Narmada valley that Modi and his ilk are using. The Narmada dam will be a fatal mistake and burden for Gujarat also. They should join hands with the struggling people in the Narmada valley for just and sustainable water management.

Sanjay Sangvai