NBA Press Note

November 18, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

People return to valley with a vow to intensify the struggle; Legal Notice served to NCCL and Indian Express for defamatory advertisement; Review Petition Filed in Supreme Court

Declaring a undeterred gallant war in the coming days against the Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Dam, people have wound up the 8 day dharna in Delhi this evening. Meanwhile, Medha Patkar has termed the World Commission on Dams' report as a "tool but not the ultimate weapon" for the struggles in Narmada and other river valleys. Legal Notice has been served to National Council for Civil Liberties and Indian Express for publishing a defamatory advertisement. Review Petition filed in the Supreme Court, giving an opportunity to the Court to help restore people's faith in Judiciary.

During the 8 day dharna in Delhi, the people have confronted almost all official bodies and authorities to appraise them about the ground realities and to warn them that their continuous callousness and insensitivity would script doom to a rich river valley. And for people, whose lives and livelihood is at stake, they have no other way than to go for a fight to finish, utilising all weapons at their disposal. Today they are waiting the decision and action of the President of India, as also Court's in re-looking at the contradictory, pro-establishment and anti-people verdict before the further major course of action is announced by the movement.

World Commission on Dams' report

Medha Patkar, one of the members of World Commission on Dams, has said in a statement from London that "The report of the World Commission on Dams is a step forward in the decades long struggle of the peoples' organizations questioning the social and environmental impacts and their justifiability on the basis of water and power delivery services as also economic benefits. It is, however, ironical that at the same time, people in the Narmada Valley, who have been at the forefront of the worldwide struggle, challenging not just the dams in the Narmada Valley but centralised, iniquitous ecologically-destructive consumerist-oriented water and natural resource management as a development paradigm, Save Narmada Movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan - NBA) is compelled to fight unjustifiable, majority judgement allowing construction of Sardar Sarovar dam at the cost of people, especially the indigenous populations." She was attending the launch of the final report of the World Commission on Dams. The report was released by Nelson Mandela in London on 16th November, 2000. The report which was unanimous carries a separate "Comments" by Medha Patkar, raising issues that were missing in the report, which she stated will have to be used for future discussions on dams.

The WCD report was an outcome of intensive study of all available knowledge base of all dams built around the world its costs, benefits and viable alternatives to big dams. The members of the Commission included pro-dam agencies like dam builders, funding banks, representatives of governments and also representatives of people's movements and NGOs, questioning the affectivity of dams.

Legal Notice to NCCL

Legal notice have been served to Gujarat based National Council for Civil Liberties for putting up a defamatory advertisement on 15.11.2000 in Indian Express. For publishing the same, Indian Express also asked to "retract these allegations and imputations and publish an apology.....with the same prominence and with same number of insertions within a week of receipt of this notice". The advertisement has alleged that "NBA is passing on confidential documents relating to projects of national importance to the foreign people..." and that the NBA is funded through hawala transactions. Hawala is well known to the politicians, both in power and outside than to any other people's movements.

Armed with the recent Supreme Court order, which gave a go ahead to the project, the Gujarat government is continuing with cheap tactics to tarnish the 15-year-old people's movements. As it always happened, instead of they coming to the fore, they are using "letter-head" organisations to target NBA. NBA is determined to expose this ploy both in the Court and on ground. The determination to save the Valley from irreparable environmental and social damage will not be affected by such baseless and malicious allegations.

Information has just reached us that the same advertisement has appeared today in some other Hindi papers too. Appropriate legal and other actions will be taken against them.

Review Petition filed in Supreme Court

Asking for a review of the verdict, which was delivered on false premises in respect to rehabilitation of thousands of families and also environmental clearance to the project, NBA has filed a review petition on 17th Nov. The Court is thus given an opportunity not only to correct their own faulty judgment to save the valley from a disaster, but also to help the common man to restore the faith in the ability of the judiciary to be unbiased and in favour of people and environment and not just that of the power-holders.

As one may recall, villagers from Narmada valley marched towards Delhi with a "Call for Justice" (Nyay ki Pukar) to expose the recent judgement on Narmada issue by the Supreme Court and give a call for transforming judiciary to be truthful, committed to the Constitutional value of protecting the rights of the depressed classes and be accountable. The March had reasserted the people's rights as against the rights of the corporate interests and power-holders.

The Long March was flagged off from Dhadgaon (Maharashtra) on the 6th Nov. and had impressive meetings at Shahada, Taloda, Nandurbar, Jalgaon and Mumbai (all in Maharashtra) and joined the other group from Nimad and Alirajpur (Madhya Pradesh), who started from the Valley on the 10th and reached Delhi, after confronting the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) at Indore. Along the Long March, hundreds of organisations have expressed their support and solidarity to the cause of Narmada Bachao Andolan. At Delhi, the Long March was joined by a large number of people from the Maheshwar, Bargi, Tawa, Man, Goi dam (all on Narmada) area and organisations from different parts of the country. They include, Ekta Parishad, Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, Adivsi Shramik Sangathan (all from Madhya Pradesh), Representatives of National Alliance of People's Movements from Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and several other parts of the country. Hundreds of organisations in Delhi too have strengthened the agitation with their support and presence at the dharna.

The President of India gave the delegation that met him, a patient hearing into the issue and has assured them of all possible steps that the Constitution has empowered him with. Mr.Wolfensohn, World Bank President was forced to come and talk to the people on the streets of Delhi in an open public questioning. The President had to confirm before more than 3000 protestors that the Bank had no intention to fund any aspect of Narmada dams. He, during a dialogue with Medha Patkar at the WCD report launch at London categorically refuted the statements released by India Abroad News Service quoting him saying that the Bank repents for withdrawing funding from Narmada in 1993. NBA and all other organisations continue to warn all international multi and bi-lateral agencies and also national funding agencies that any attempt to enter the valley of Narmada will be sternly dealt with determined people's wrath.

An independent Jury, which included Jst.(Retd) Tiwetia, Jst.(Retd) Jaspal Singh, Mohini Giri, Adv. Haroobhai Mehta, Prof.U.R.Ananthamoorthi and Ashish Nandi, has unanimously stated, in its interim findings, that "... People already affected by the construction completed at 88 mts have not been fully rehabilitated and resettled. R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) is utterly neglected by the authorities concerned. The permission to raise the height of the dam above 88 mts should not have been given until all environmental and social impact surveys were completed. Not recognizing the people affected by the canal, colony, afforestation and others as 'Project Affected Persons' was termed by the Jury as "unjust discrimination". On the recent Supreme Court judgement the jury has observed that the verdict has to be "reviewed". This findings were the outcome of a public hearing held on the 14th Nov., organised by Indian People's Tribunal at Delhi. Afraid of being exposed, none of the government officials dared to come for the Hearing.

Meeting with MOWR and NCA

The people in groups have confronted the officials of NCA R&R sub group in the Ministry of Empowerment and Social Justice, the NCA chairman (who is the Minister of Water Resources) and explained the ground realities. The NBA delegation had a meeting with the Minister of Water Resources, Shri.Arujn Sethi, and Mr.Hassan, Secretary, NCA and others. Representatives from all the three states participated in the meeting which went on for 2 hours and 15 minutes. While putting forward all the details about the lack of rehabilitation even till 88mts, the seriousness of the situation of those who have been resettled so far, submergence in general, other categories than submergence. The delegation argued in front of the Minister that the NCA, should accept the ground reality and submit a special affidavit in Supreme Court. The delegation lead by Shripad Dharmadhikary insisted the Minister and NCA that the clearance being issued should be a formal clearance, should be according to the Clause of the Tribunal, making it public with all necessary evidence. NBA also compelled the NCA that it should make the Action Plan, which they are going to prepared as per the order of the Supreme Court within 4 weeks, public.

When he was invited to visit the Valley, the Minister said that he himself is a harijan and can understand the situation once they are displaced. Mr.Hasan, Secretary-NCA, said that the details of the situation of R&R was provided by concerned state governments and NCA will scrutinize it again. Both the Minister and Secretary assured the NBA that they will try their best to a proper R&R and if necessary they will invite NBA for another meeting.

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. 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. They also confronted the officials of Power Ministry later yesterday who assured the delegation to hold a high level meeting with NBA delegation sooner.

The Struggle ahead......and an appeal to the civil society

It is now known that the judgment is in violation of right to life, livelihood and other human rights enshrined in the Indian constitution and United Nations charters, conventions and declarations, most of those ratified by India. The judgement has put the lives of more than 3,500 families at stake since the continued construction of Sardar Sarovar, which will inundate homes and farms depending on the height reached by next May. It has also risked the lives and livelihood hundreds of thousands, majority of them being socially disadvantaged tribal (indigenous) communities, who are not even offered proper rehabilitation package. The people have no option but commitment and courage to fight this heinous crime against humanity, democracy and justice, on behalf of the struggles across the world.

This struggle is clearly polarizing those who care for nature and people, and for human justice as against others who are willing to sacrifice nature and people at the altar of money- and market-based development. It is indeed time to strengthen the alliances that have been formed in Seattle, Washington DC and Prague and challenge the interests at both national and international level.

We, the people of Narmada Valley the tribals, peasants, labourers appeal to the civil society to stand up to this cause and stand by human justice, which is much beyond the legal justice.

Noorji Padvi
Mahesh Patel
Pratibha Shinde
Joe Athialy