| NBA Press Release
|| 19 May 2007
Madhya Pradesh High Court stays reservoir-filling in Omkareshwar dam this monsoon
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Court finds R&R not completed as per provisions of 1993 R&R Plan
Yesterday, on the 18th of May, the Madhya Pradesh High Court bench of Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik, and Justice K.K. Lahoti gave its judgment, after the conclusion of the interim hearing in the Writ petition related to the rehabilitation and resettlement of the oustees of the Omkareshwar dam filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The High Court found that the rehabilitation and resettlement of oustees as per the provisions of the R&R Plan of 1993 was yet to be completed. On these grounds, the High Court refused permission to the State Government and the NHDC to fill the Omkareshwar reservoir up to 189 meters and dismissed their application for the vacation of stay on the closure of the river-sluice gates and the radial gates of the dam. The Court directed that the stay on reservoir filling given on the 30th of March 2007 would continue till further orders. The Honorable Court also directed that the R&R measures as per the R&R Plan should be expeditiously given to the oustees, and that the written pleadings of both sides must be completed by the 30th of June 2007, so that the case may be taken up for fixing dates of final hearing in the first week of July 2007.
It may be noted that the Omkareshwar Project was scheduled to be completed by October 2007, but was completed ahead of schedule, and therefore it was planned by the NHDC and the State Government to fill the reservoir in advance of the schedule, from the 4th of April 2007. However by April 2007, the R&R of the oustees was yet to be completed, some of the surveys and acquisition proceedings were still in process or were yet to be commenced, and the provision of entitlements to the oustees had been both delayed and denied. It was in this situation that the Narmada Bachao Andolan filed a public interest litigation in the High Court, on the behalf of the oustees, in which the High Court gave a stay on the impoundment of the reservoir-waters on the 30th of March 2007. The case was heard for several days in April-May 2007. It may be noted that there are 30 villages in the submergence of the Omkareshwar dam, in which the majority of the oustees are tribals. Around 8000 families or 40,000 to 50,000 persons will be affected by this Project. In August 1993, the Madhya Pradesh government submitted a R&R (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Plan to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests. It was on the basis of this Plan that the environmental clearance was granted to the project in October 1993 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1985, which was binding on the Government of Madhya Pradesh and NHDC (Narmada Hydro-Development Corporation). The basic feature of this Plan was the provision of agricultural land to the oustees who were losing their lands to submergence. The environmental clearance required that land should also be given to landless labor affected by the Project. However the ground reality is that the Project authorities have not given a single oustee agricultural land, a fact which was not disputed by the Respondents in the Court. Thus, it was clear that the Project authorities were planning to forever submerge the lands of the oustees and force them to leave, before providing them with resources and entitlements, and this would be an open violation of the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan welcomes this judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. This Order has given the oustees a valuable second chance to erect and live productive and dignified lives after displacement by requiring that they be given land and entitlements before submergence. The Narmada Bachao Andolan hopes that the Project authorities will provide the R&R entitlements including cultivable and irrigable agricultural land to the oustees as soon as possible, so that the oustees can begin to re-build their lives at a new place.
The case was argued by the Supreme Court Senior counsel Shri Ravishankar Prasad for NHDC, the Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh Shri R.N. Singh for Government of Madhya Pradesh and NBA activist Ms. Chittaroopa Palit for the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Summary of Order of HC dated 18.05.2007
Ø Rehabilitation as per the provisions of the 1993 R&R Plan has not taken place. Therefore no permission to be given to raise the water level at the dam to 189 meters at the present.
Ø The Application of the State Government and NHDC to vacate stay on closure of river-sluice gates and radial gates given on 30th March 2007 without merit and hence dismissed.
Ø The Order of 30th March 2007 which put a stay on stay on closure of river-sluice gates and radial gates and severing of electricity and water supplies to the villages and the maintenance of status quo would continue.
Ø The Project authorities would have to expeditiously rehabilitate the oustees as per the provisions of the R&R Plan,1993.
Ø All pleadings including Counter-affidavit of Respondents and Reply of Petitioner to be completed by the 30th of June 2007 . Date of final hearing to be decided in first week of July 2007.Chittaroopa Palit