NBA Press Release
  11 November 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Huge Protest and Declaration of Struggle by over Ten Thousand Maheshwar Dam-Affected People.

2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa,
Madhya Pradesh
Tel/FAX: 07283-233162, 9425056802, 9425087827
Email: nobigdams[at]sancharnet.in

Dam work must be stopped and Project utility and Rehabilitation Plan must be established

Narmada valley not prepared to suffer any further destruction - Warning by Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar, Man, Upper Veda, Bargi and Tawa dam oustees

Today more than ten thousand people affected by the Maheshwar dam protested under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Aandolan against this destructive dam in a huge rally and public meeting in Mandleshwar town. Large numbers of women participated in the rally and protest. Along with the Maheshwar dam affected people, several hundred representatives from other dams in the Narmada valley including oustees from the Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar, Man, Upper Veda, Bargi and Tawa dams were present in the rally. They demanded that the State Government must immediately stop the work on the Maheshwar dam, establish the beneficiality of the Maheshwar Project and a land based Rehabilitation Plan. The representatives from the various projects said that the Narmada valley had seen enough destruction in the name of development and was not prepared to tolerate any more. Many representatives from other people's organizations were also present at the programme.

At the outset of the program, the rally reached the Narmada ghats where the people resolved and reiterated their resolve to escalate their struggle to defend their rights. Speaking at the public meeting after the rally, Shri Alok Agarwal, senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan said the all governments in a democracy have to be accountable to the people. Yet the Government has completely failed to establish the beneficiality of the Narmada projects or to show arrangements for rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people. The people of the Narmada valley challenge and warn the Government that they were not prepared to tolerate any more destruction. They said that the voice of the Narmada valley would soon resonate all over the State and country. NBA activist Ms. Chittaroopa Palit said that in light of the fact that the cost of electricity is prohibitively expensive, and the Rehabilitation Plan detailing extent of submergence, numbers and categories of people to be affected, agricultural land and other resources is yet to prepared in the last nine years, because of which the Central government has issued orders to stop the Project construction, the State Government must immediately stop all work on the project.

Sushilabai, Sarpanch Mardana village in the Maheshwar submergence stated that the preparation of the Rehabilitation Plan was a far cry. Even the surveys of the actual submergence at back-water levels was yet to be done, and the people were in the dark about what the actual extent of submergence would be. On the basis of the experience of Bargi dam, where 101 villages were slated for submergence, but 162 villages and 26 R &R sites were submerged when the dam was filled, and the recent experience in the Indira Sagar dam where surveys last month in only 24 of the reservoir rim villages showed a mistake of nearly 1000 acres of land and 1000 houses that had earlier not been accounted for and which would have been submerged without acquisition and rehabilitation and creating an enormous threat to the life of the oustees. Nearly 100 more villages were now left for re-survey where it was anticipated that several thousand more houses and acres of lands would submerge. She said that in the context of a Writ Petition filed by oustees of the Indira Sagar dam, the High Court had ordered that the re-surveys must be done by the Central Water Commission with the help of the Survey of India. Sushilabai said that the same NVDA (Narmada valley Development Authority) that had severely under-estimated the submergence in the Bargi and the Indira Sagar dams had also surveyed the Maheshwar Project. She demanded that the CWC and the Survey of India must survey the Maheshwar dam FRL and back-water levels so that the extent of submergence was known, and without this preliminary step of ascertaining the extent of submergence, the dam work must not be continued.

Shri Radheshyam Patidar of Village Pathrad in the Maheshwar dam submergence pointed out that a report prepared at the instance of the S.Kumars and the Project authorities themselves have found that three large areas close to the submergence will become severely waterlogged. He demanded that since these areas would become uncultivable and uninhabitable, the lands and houses in these areas must be acquired and the affected families must be rehabilitated and resettled with land for land and all rehabilitation benefits. Speaking at the rally, Shri Sheru, fisherman from Village Mardana said that it was not only a question of the impact on the farmers whose lands would submerge. He said that along with a rich land economy, the Maheshwar submergence area sustained a very rich riverine economy - where several thousands of Kewats, Kahars and Dalits had prosperous livelihoods through fishing, draw-down agriculture, ferrying and sand-quarrying, all of which would be disrupted and destroyed due to the reservoir filling, if the dam is built. Most of these families have been excluded even from the reckoning of Project affected families. This exclusion was intolerable and all such families must be included and land entitlements must be given to them as required as per the Ministry of Environment clearance of January 1994. Addressing the rally, Maheshwar dam affected persons Shri Sanjay Nigam, Kalusingh Mandloi, Shri Jagdish Patidar, Kamlabai said that the people of the area were prepared for intense struggle to save the area and the State from sure economic disaster to be caused by this Project.

Shr Rajendra Patel of Indira Sagar area said that there had been massive unsalted submergence in the Indira Sagar area this year when the dam began to be filled. Waters have inundated many roads and access routes and threaten to submerge the Calcutta - Mumbai main railway line and several R&R sites. Shri Hakimbhai of Bargi dam said that the same situation had transpired in the Bargi dam area in 1990 when the dam was filled and scores of villages not slated for submergence as well as R&R sites were inundated.

Shri Anil Trivedi, senior lawyer from Indore High Court addressed the rally and said rhat the struggle of the oustees must become the struggle of the common people of this country and that there was no other means of victory except struggle, struggle and more struggle.

Shri Bhagwan Sirwi from Sardar Sarovar , Ramkuwarbai from the Man dam area, Bana Bai from Uppre Veda dam, Shri Maujilal from the Omkareshwar dam area, Ms. Tara Barkhade from the Tawa dam area and many others addressed the rally and said that the struggles of the people of the various dams must be fought together and the Narmada valley could no longer tolerate this wave of destruction.

Ms. Niti Dewan from Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Shri Tukha Ram from Jagrut Dalit Adivasi Sangathan , Shri Bhuru Bhai from Adivasi Dalit Morcha and Shri Surabh Singh from Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sanghat also addressed the rally and expressed their solidarity.

At the end of the rally, the villagers gave a Memorandum to the District officials for the State Government demanding that the work on the Maheshwar dam must be immediately stopped, make the cost and extent of electricity to be generated by this Project and the current conditions of the Power Purchase Agreement public, thus establishing the beneficiality of the Project, get the work of re-survey at back-water levels done by the Central water Commission and the Survey of India, prepare a comprehensive Rehabilitation Plan with details of extent of submergence, detail number and categories of families to be submerged, provide details of agricultural land to be given to the families, include families who are working on the riverine economy, and who are in the severely water-logged areas close to the Maheshwar submergence, and make public the status of willful defaults and outstanding loans of the S.Kumars due to the State government and the status of the charges of "criminal conspiracy" against them due to financial irregularities and give a satisfactory explanation as to how the Project is being implemented by promoters with such a track-record of financial irregularities. The people warned the Government in the Memorandum that if State Government failed to do the above, they would undertake satyagraha and close the work on the dam themselves through a peaceful program of civil disobedience.

Sangeeta Kanera
Gajraj Singh
Devram Verma