NBA Press Note

November 17, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Several Hundred People Storm Water Resource and Power Ministries : NBA Challenges Narmada Control Authority and Power Ministry on Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar Projects: NBA files Review Petition

Skirting the strong security, several hundred people affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar Projects on the Narmada, who are in a dharna in Delhi, reached the 4th floor of the office of Water Resource Ministry where a meeting of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) was supposed to be going on. After a long struggle with the police, the project affected people from the Narmada Valley led by Chittaroopa Palit and Arundhati Dhuru, chanting slogans like NCA Hoshme Aao, managed to reach Mr.Hassan, Secretary of Water Resource ministry and Chairperson of NCA. Mr.Hassan told the people that the meeting of the NCA was going on at Bikaji Kama Place and not here. People insisted that he should take them to the meeting place. After a lot of argument, Mr.Suresh Roy, Joint Commissioner of Police finally took a seven member delegation including Arundhati Dhuru and Chittaroopa Palit to meet Mr.Arjun Sethi, Cabinet Minister for Water Resources. The Minister assured the delegation that he would hold a meeting tomorrow at 11.00 a.m. with the NBA delegation and NCA members, including the Secretary. Mr.Arjun Sethi also guaranteed the delegation that no decision about increase in height will be taken till all necessary arrangements have been done.

Narmada Bachao Andolan representatives demanded that the Authority (NCA) should file a Special Affidavit in the Supreme Court stating the real status of rehabilitation of the people affected at 90 mts height. The reality is that large number of these families are not yet resettled and so construction should not be carried on. Responding positively, the Minister assured that he will ask responsible officers from Ministry of Environment and Forest and Ministry of Water Resources to be present in the meeting tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, the Maheshwar Project Affected People lead by Alok Agrawal, met Secretary-Power, Mr.Basu. and appraised about the high cost of the electricity, Rs.9.50/- per unit from Maheshwar Project, if produced at all. The Secretary while accepting this said that they themselves are concerned about the high cost of the power from Maheshwar Project. Mr.Basu also assured NBA delegation that it will go through all the technical issues of the project and requested NBA to provide him with the available documents. He also assured the delegation to call a meeting with NBA later some time.

The delegation expressed concern to the Secretary about the news carried in a daily yesterday, stating that Crisis Management Group of the Power Ministry met yesterday and decided to achieve Financial Closure for all the projects in India before December 30th. Any such move towards Maheshwar Project will be opposed tooth and nail, they warned, as the project was t have serious social and environmental impacts on top of very high cost of power.

It may be noted that, hundreds of people affected by the Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Project held an angry demonstration at the Central Office of the Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) at Nehru Place in Delhi yesterday. Carrying banners proclaiming 'No IFCI endorsement for Maheshwar dam', the demonstrators drew attention to the economic and social destruction that would accompany any attempt to go through with the Maheshwar Dam. The demonstrators sang songs and gave angry slogans such as 'IFCI, hosh me aao, Narmada Ghati ko mat dubao.'

It may also be noted that, entering the 7th day of the Dharna at Delhi, the police had stopped the people from going to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) office yesterday. 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.

A Review Petition was filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the Supreme Court today in the case of NBA Vs.Union of India and others asking for a review of the majority judgement of the Supreme Court dated 18th October, 2000. Meanwhile, the hearing of the application by NBA for clarification scheduled to be heard today has been postponed.

M.K.Sukumar