NBA Press Release
  07 May 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

SARDAR SAROVAR: STOP INHUMAN DESTRUCTION OF HUMAN COMMUNITIES AND RICH NATURAL ENDOWMENT IN NARMADA VALLEY. IT'S EITHER NOW OR NEVER

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

The massacre is in the making with ongoing work at Sardar Sarovar Dam: The vulgar politics and dead democracy triumphs. The Supreme Court, after many postponements, is to complete hearing in the case of Sardar Sarovar victims and give a verdict on May 8th. The Dam construction is not suspended and the governments, the court, the country is witnessing a well planned murder. In the context of the violence erupted in Gujarat again, and State violence around, some may take this as something that "Democracy" in the country accepts, allows, approves, why even adopts as its means for pushing the agenda of universal politics. Can we?

The present picture in the Sardar Sarovar Project affected area in the Narmada Valley is that there are at least 35,000 families in the 220 villages where waters are to be filled, with the dam height of 121.92 metres, i.e. up to 136 metres backwater level. Houses and farms with best crop and horticulture, various governmental and private/ social amenities such as schools, dispensaries, shops and large markets, dharamshalas, temples, mosques, archaeological sites, lift irrigation projects^Ňall of which will be drowned. This is the case with villages affected at 80 metres such as in Nandurbar district in Maharashtra and Jhabua district of M.P. (also in Badwani and Dhar districts of Nimad, M.P.), 110 metres affected and to be affected and those to be affected at 122 metres, the large villages. No doubt the total area to be submerged at 110 or 122 metres is always worked out/ estimated on the basis of the highest (1:100 years) rainfall but that can happen even this year, i.e., in the coming monsoon. One township, Dharampuri, and another large village, Nisarpur, with about 5,000 PAFs each, are to be affected at 122 metres. The government claims, after changing the submergence marks, that not all families in this town and another large village are affected at 122 metres, but the ground reality is that level surveys have been altered, record is imperfect and the number of families to be affected has been underestimated. Same is the situation in almost all villages in the affected area. The thousands of non-agriculturists, artisans, boatsmen, fishworkers, traders, etc have no compensation or livelihood package proposed while it was to be so, as per the policy. The environmental destruction ^÷ of lakhs of trees in the 122 metre affected area, loss of the best of agricultural, horticulture, ages old archeological sites and cultural monuments , Rajghat ^÷ ashes and bones of Gandhi and Kasturba, as also the loss of irrigation to lakhs of acres of land and drinking water to the towns in Nimad, due to denial of the right to SS waters to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh ^Ň.. goes uncounted.

The monsoon of 1994, when dam height was only 69 metres, had caused submergence and collapse of hundreds of houses in the hilly adivasi areas and thousands in the Nimad's plain areas. Submergence with 122 metres dam height and as much rainfall as in 1994 would cause devastation in the valley. This would first affect the 100% adivasi villages, from where the people, children to the aged will have come on to the streets, those adivasis who never migrate to cities or other rural communities as labourers, would become labourers, with no possibility of continuing to stay on the banks of the river, where, why farming, even access to water (due to fringe column of silt) with river as the only source, be impossible. Till date, the silt has taken a toll of hundreds, if not thousands of cattle and a few humans, including our colleague Shobha Wagh, NBA activist, who sunk in the silt in 2004. The disturbed crocodiles have eaten away adivasi youths and women too. The dam being raised would thus cause a great human tragedy and will be shameful for the democratic country, our constitutional institutions, including the judiciary. It will also prove to be a serious contempt of court and the Constitution as well as an utter failure of the much trumpeted, costly machinery of the government responsible for rehabilitation in Sardar Sarovar Project.

While the picture presented by the official reports and through the affidavits was that of "rehabilitation completed" and readiness to flood the area, as long as from Delhi to Agra, the reality is that life is hustling and bustling in these areas, which cannot be inhumanly drowned, doomed and destroyed with water as a weapon. The government of Maharashtra is suppressing the Monitoring report of its own agency to claim no balance, allowing its adivasis to be glutted. This has been happening in dam after dam, from Bhakra Nangal to Tehri, Narmada Sagar to Srisailam, but we can avoid this to save lives, livelihoods, peoples^“ rights and the Constitution.

We have already exposed the government's game of numbers. They have recently added 10000 families to their estimate of Affected Families (the previous numbers till December 2005 were 33014 in M.P. and 41000 in all three states at the full dam height: now replaced by 43021 in M.P. and 51447 in the 3 states ^÷ please see the table enclosed). But reducing even the earlier stated number of PAFs below 110 metres and 122 metres, they have shown an increase in PAFs only beyond 122 metres! Their reports vary but the official status report of 31.12.2005 showing 24778 PAFs as balance to be rehabilitated at 122 metres is closer to the truth and NBA's estimate. The construction work is on since March 9th at the dam site, and the height of the dam already reached 114+ metres has already confirmed contempt of court permitted and promoted by all the organs and the State, and is going to cause an inhuman atrocity against the adivasis, in not less than 70 communities for whom no land or house plots are located, nor ready. Only further damage can and needs to be stopped. If not now, it will be never! The massacre is in the making.

It's more than proved before the Supreme Court, with official date and documents that Gujarat has not used even 30% of Sardar Sarovar waters available at 110 metres; with canal network (only 1/7th completed) and pipeline work falling behind. The drinking water has reached only 10% of the 1300+ villages and towns claimed, with regularity, while the claim was 110 metres would provide it to 8215 villages and 135 towns in all SSP of drinking water. The irrigation at 110 metres has come out to be 57000 hectares instead of the claimed 2.2 to 5 lakh hectares ; at a huge cost of 20 000 crores and 11000 hectares of land, millions of trees and 20000+ families displaced/affected. On the other hand 2 lakh hectares of irrigation and drinking water to many villages is attained with just 2000+ crores, with small decentralised means watershed management to rainwater harvesting.

The Water Resources Minister, Mr Saif-Uddin-Soz, stayed the decision of the Narmada Control Authority within 2 days of its being taken, i.e. on March 10th, later after much struggle, the three Ministers^“ report concluded that rehabilitation was not completed and the decision should be withdrawn, at the Review Committee of the NCA, 50-50 division amongst the members left the issue of stoppage of dam construction undecided, with a tie, while the inter-state dispute continued.

Instead of respecting the report of the 3 ministers, and intervening (as per the authority granted through the Supreme Court's judgement, 2000), the Prime Minister opted to remain aloof, or rather firm in his view "No need to stop the Dam. Let both, the Dam and rehabilitation go on, simultaneously!" This is absolutely an illegal position but also inhuman, since the homes and farms, the communities would have gone under water when they would see the light of justice! Can this be acceptable as coming from our responsible governments?

The Prime Minister has now appointed a committee of 3 former bureaucrats under the Chairmanship of Shri Shunglu, former CAG of India, who are to assess the number of affected families of SSP; who are to judge the legality in the process of offering the land and cash in lieu of land as also suggest ways to complete R&R within next 3 months (i.e. by August, the highest flooding month) as per the norms laid by the Narmada Tribunal Award. (in completion of R&R at least 6 months before submergence: for raising height to 122 metres, the deadline was 31.12.2005). The appointment of this ^—Oversight Group^“ (OG) is a move to make the world think there is ACTION, pro-people, on the human issue. In reality, it^“s a strategic distraction from the real and rational solution as well as the legal binding. The Terms of Reference for the OG are contradictory and the mandate is ridiculously illogical and illegal. The exercise of one month survey (19th May to 19th June), and rehabilitation of thousands of families (at least 35000 are in the submergence area below 122 metres) in few days, (the schedule declared by the Additional Solicitor General in the court) is going to be only a post-mortem of the then dead or hanged communities and families. Moreover, with a public news that the governments of MP and Gujarat have rejected the committee, will this "new mechanism", seen and used as a substitute for suspension of work at the dam, even be fruitful and reach its goal, howsoever illegitimate?

Where does all this lead us to? With a highly politicised issue of SSP the Narmada dam, after 20 year battle with all facts and principles, if justice seems to be so far away and engulfed into the politics of pressures, what can be expected by the lakhs and lakhs of the poor yet self-reliant farmers, working classes, artisans, adivasis and dalits who are being thrown out of not just their houses but livelihoods, cultural and natural environs?

Can they even beg or bow before the "democratic centres of power"? Can they accept law or policy to be the consolation for giving away whatever is theirs, as a "sacrifice" for development? Can they be convinced with promises of "rehabilitation"? Can they remain "peaceful" in the face of State violence with unholy alliances? Will the UPA government ever be able to boast itself of a secular force and a force difference from Modi, even in the context of repeated eruption of violence in Gujarat?

The answer is NO! And hence to a question as to whether Narmada and the struggle by those victimised for development has to and will continue against all odds and blows? The answer is YES!

Medha Patkar