NBA Press Note

November 16, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Dharna Continues Inspite of Police Intervention: States Amended Narmada Tribunal For showing Less displacement : Court misled

Entering the 6th day of the Dharna at Delhi, the police have stopped the people from going to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) office. They were on their way to the NCA premises to hold a peaceful dharna and fast, to remind them that their callousness in reporting the ground reality in respect to the rehabilitation of the people affected even by the existing dam have created havoc and facilitated the Supreme Court to allow further construction and any further recommendation for further work will script death to the valley. The people, on stopping from going further, have carried out their actions where they were stopped. The dharna, with songs and slogans have demonstrated their determination to fight, even when all arms of the system are seem to be against them.

More and more people from Delhi are coming to the dharna place to express their solidarity with the people. Some even are helping the cause by providing food to them. Many International organisations too are expressing their support to the cause, by issuing statements and writing to the concerned authorities, urging them to halt the dam and stop letting the tribals suffer for someone's prosperity.

States Amended Narmada Tribunal: Height Parameters of SSP Changed For showing Less displacement: 15,000 People Not Counted As Project Affected

Contrary to what the Supreme Court and Government of Gujarat stand about the irrevocability of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) with respect to the height of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), it is now evident from statements of Government of Madhya Pradesh, that the Tribunal was amended way back in 1983 for the convenience of the Government of Gujarat and other riparian states. To underplay the grave impacts of massive submergence, the State Governments seems to have amended the Tribunal to change the height parameter maximum Water Level ( MWL) of SSP from 460' to 455'. As a result, there is a gross underestimation of the people affected by the backwaters of SSP- at least 15,000 people are not being counted as project affected due to this change. While there was no mention for all these years about the change in the government documents, this was revealed in year 2000 itself due to the persistent query of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The concerned governments have hidden and misrepresented this fact. Documented evidence proves that all riparian state governments have filed false affidavits on the SSP height and ensuing submergence. The Courts, the people and other independent agencies (like the World Bank's Morse Committee) were misled, and continue to be, based on the continued applicability of these affidavits. The Supreme Court Judgement is based on such false affidavits.

The NWDT decrees that the Gujarat Government construct the SSP to a height of Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of 455 feet and the MWL of 460 feet. However recently, the Madhya Pradesh Government has pledged under oath in the Supreme Court (via Affidavit Volume 156 A in NBA v/s Union of India and Others WP 319/1994) that the Tribunal has been amended to change the MWL from 460' to 455'. According to M.P. this decision was taken in a meeting of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) with the consent of all riparian states (Maharashtra, Gujarat & MP). Not only is the evidence coming from M.P., but also Gujarat, since the backwater calculations are done by the Central Water Commission in consultation with Gujarat and M.P. and this is being done from MWL 455 instead of MWL 460. Maharashtra basing its land acquisition on these calculations is also not rehabilitating people till MWL 460 feet and backwater but only till 455 feet and backwater. When people pointed this (WHEN) out to one of (WHICH)the GRAs and sought land acquisition and rehabilitation for those below MWL they received a reply that the MWL has been changed from 460' to 455' in 1983.

The Tribunal had prescribed that people whose houses were between the FRL 455' and MWL 460' (and backwater) are project affected and should be moved to alternate plots in higher places. However due to this amendment the Maximum Water Level itself has been lowered to 455 feet and therefore at least 15,000 people are not being counted as project affected and not being rehabilitated.

The FRL and MWL of Sardar Sarovar Dam occur in EXACTLY the same clauses of the Tribunal and in the same manner and if one can be discussed and changed so can the other. The majority Judgement of the Supreme Court has said: "The height of the Sardar Sarovar dam was determined at FRL 455 feet." In fact The Majority judgement of the Supreme Court, basing itself on one height parameter rather than two, is not consistent with the Tribunal which states "The Tribunal hereby determines that the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam should be fixed at FRL 455 feet AND MWL 460 feet." Thus while the Court has totally removed the height parameter of the MWL ( 460 feet), it has maintained that the FRL ( 455) cannot even be reviewed.

While it is clear from levels upto which rehabilitation is being planned, that the MWL has been changed, it is not transparent from documents filed in Court. In the past few weeks, in response to NBA's queries to Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA)- appointed by the Court order, a note was given that the amendment took place in the NCA meeting of 1983. However until mid 1995 all documents, maps and affidavits by all the state governments as well as the stones installed during this period in villages indicating the submergence region were using MWL of 460'. Subsequently, since 1996, there is mysteriously no mention of MWL or 460' in any of the Gujarat government's affidavits (except few filed to say dam height can't be changed where MWL 460 occurs!) and the complete removal of this most important term is very strange. Moreover backwater calculations coming from CWC and certified by the Chief Engineer at Kevadia Colony, Gujarat are being done from only 455' instead of 460', without mentioning the word MWL.

While this indicates that Gujarat cannot disagree with M.P.'s claim that MWL has been changed to 455', there is cause for serious concern since both state governments have used the wrong value of MWL in the Supreme Court, as well as in discussions with World Bank and those during Environmental Clearance. If MWL was changed in 1983, why was the Court misled till mid-1995 by all the states and why is Gujarat still not openly saying this? Moreover why had Gujarat maintained that the height of the dam cannot be changed by the consent of states? Is this because while people are being rehabilitated only upto MWL 455 and backwater by all 3 states, Gujarat is silently constructing the dam upto MWL 460, as per the original design claiming there can't be any review of it's height?

The Supreme Court has implicitly accepted that changes can be made to the Tribunal through improper procedures in NCA meetings, while to the people it has said that the Tribunal is binding and can't be reviewed. The States and NCA should be taken to task for suppressing information on MWL change and giving false affidavits. By staying silent the states and the NCA cannot bypass the scrutiny of the people and this is further proof of why it is important to involve the people whose lives are at stake, in the review of the Narmada Tribunal and in its amendments.

It is now clear that mutually contradictory affidavits were given by the State Governments in the Supreme Court on the height parameters of the dam and modalities of changes that can be or already have been made on it thus causing serious doubt on their intent and integrity during the entire course of the court case. The Majority Judgement has been seriously misled by not taking cognizance of this grave violation. The fact of the matter is that the tribunal while arriving at its decision, grossly underestimated the submergence and hence its determination of the Sardar Sarovar Dam height needs to be reviewed.

NBA reiterate its earlier position that the Tribunal must be amended with public hearings, and no document which pertains to the lives and livelihood of millions can be kept removed from public and scientific scrutiny for such long unreasonable periods. NBA restates that pushing the project further ahead without a review of the dam design (for example the design continues to be according to the MWL at 460' though States themselves say MWL is changed) and without taking into account the actual displacement, will be a mockery of the modern science and a cruel game with millions of lives and their livelihoods.

Sanjay Sangvai
Joe Athialy