NBA Press Release
  16 November 2000
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

For the struggles in Narmada and other river valleys, World Commission on
Dams report is a tool but not the ultimate weapon

Narmada Bachao Andolan
London

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, inequitous 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. More than 2000 tribals and peasants from the Sardar Sarovar (SSP) - affected region, from other big dams and hundreds of supporters are camping in Delhi (India) since November 11th. The people from the Valley started the long march - Call for Justice - on November 6th with a walk on fast, holding public meetings , appealing to all citizens and, most of all standing firm against the unjust decision and arrogance of the Apex court of the country.

Today, as we gather here to release the WCD report, two groups of the thousands of the residents of the Valley and supporters are sitting in protest and fasting before both the Indian Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Industrial Financial Corpodation of India, a channel for funding big dams such as Maheshwar. They have already confronted Mr Wolfensohn, World Bank President two days ago, who was forced to come and talk to them 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. NBA with a network of struggles and members of global coalition against large dams and for rivers and people will watch and monitor against any bilateral or multilateral funding in these projects. We therefore warn all such agencies including Export Credit Guarantee Agencies and multi-national companies.

The WCD Report has clearl indicated what peoples' movements have struggled for over the past half a century. Large dams proceed and are justified with no respect for peoples' rights to resources and development planning, no place for social and environmental impacts assessment in their decision-making. Large dams have also been economically nonviable, without assessment of options and without post facto review, justifying those as development is unacceptable and unscientific.

It is, therefore, shocking that the Apex Court of the largest democracy of the world has given a verdict which completely ignores the over-whelming evidence of large dams as unsustainable, unjust and destructive projects. The judgement has been summarily criticised and challenged by a wide cross-section of eminent people, writers, scientists, senior advocates and judges.

It is now known to be 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 is particularly inhumane since the continued construction of Sardar Sarovar will inundate homes and farms of more than 3,500 families in the coming monsoon while depending on the height reached by next May, the livelihood and life of hundreds of thousands, majority of them being socially disadvantaged tribal (indigenous) people, would be brutally destroyed. 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 polarising 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. The WCD report may be a tool but not the ultimate weapon. It falls short of a courageous political analysis of the root causes of maldevelopment, inequity and injustice as well as the very development paradigm which justifies the building of large dams.

The only hope for the future lies in the people asserting their rights and control over their resources and lives against appropriation by the ruling elites. It is towards this end that the struggles against large dams and for self-reliant reconstruction with natural and human resources have to go on in Narmada and other river valleys.

This struggle is clearly polarising 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. The WCD report may be a tool but not the ultimate weapon. It falls short of a courageous political analysis of the root causes of maldevelopment, inequity and injustice as well as the very development paradigm which justifies the building of large dams.

The only hope for the future lies in the people asserting their rights and control over their resources and lives against appropriation by the ruling elites. It is towards this end that the struggles against large dams and for self-reliant reconstruction with natural and human resources have to go on in Narmada and other river valleys.

Medha Patkar