| NBA Press Release
|| 14 November 2007
NCA admits illegality of Sardar Sarovar Dam Height Increase
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
NCA officials openly agreed that rehabilitation of the already affected families is far from complete and explicitly stated that no further construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam will be permitted
'Break down the dam or reduce the water level of the reservoir', the people demanded
Yesterday, 13th November 2007, more than 500 farmers, adivasis, fishworkers, women and children from the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, affected by the Sardar Sarovar project stormed into the NCA office in the early hours and blocked entrances. The demand was that the officials hold decisive meetings with them until which time the dharna would continue. During discussions, SHRI AFROZ AHMAD, DIRECTOR, NCA (IMPACT ASSESSMENT AND REHABILITATION), INDORE, OPENLY AGREED THAT RESETTLEMENT AND REHABILITATION (R&R) WAS YET TO BE COMPLETED AND AGREED THAT THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE DAM UP TO 121.92M HAD RESULTED IN ILLEGAL SUBMERGENCE OF HOUSES AND FARMS. He explicitly stated that there was no chance for any permission being discussed, let alone granted, with regard to the installation of 17m high gates on the Sardar Sarovar dam.
After blocking the entrance of the NCA office, the activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan demanded that the officials must come out and hold discussions with the people. NCA officials agreed and senior officials of the NCA, including Shri Afroz Ahmad, came out for discussions even as the police presence continuously increased in the meanwhile.
Speaking at the meeting, Mangliya Pavra spoke of the situation in the submergence villages in Maharashtra especially Bhadal, and how permission to build the dam up to 121.92m was given, even though more than 1100 affected families in Maharashtra were yet to be rehabilitated. He spoke at length about the submergence of people’s lands and houses and lack of compensation in this matter as well.
Yogini Khanolkar informed the NCA officials that, while on record Maharashtra officials claim that 357 families remain to be rehabilitated, in reality there are more than 1100 families, excluding hundreds of others who are major sons as well. She demanded that NCA look into the veracity of claims of the Maharashtra government with regard to claims of land identified, instead of blindly accepting their claims. For instance, now the government claims to have identified about 500 hectares of private land when in reality there is only 150 hectares. “The government, in total, needs more than 4000 hectares for rehabilitating families”, she said.
“NCA must ensure that government makes available degraded forest land for rehabilitation, as identified by the families” said Ranyadaya from Mokhdi. Narpat Padvi and Punya spoke about the situation in the R&R sites in Maharashtra and highlighted the main problems, including non-allotment of land, allotment of 1 hectare to major sons, change of R&R site demanded by families, lack of drinking water and irrigation facilities, among others.
Shri Afroz Ahmad, in response, agreed that the rehabilitation of families was indeed yet to be completed, and promised to schedule a visit to the Maharashtra submergence villages and R&R sites in December 2007. He also promised to raise the issue of number of balance families and actual quantum of land available and needed, with the government officials. With regard to the R&R sites he stated that these issues have been raised with the government and will be followed up immediately.
Vikrambhai spoke of the situation in Gujarat and highlighted the situation of more than 900 families in the 6 villages of Kevadia colony, whose lands and houses are being snatched away in the name of tourism, five-star hotels, golf courses and holiday resorts. “The lands of these families were forcibly acquired in 1961 for the Sardar Sarovar colony. Without being rehabilitated, having all their lands acquired for a pittance, these families were left with only their houses and small pieces of land. They were reduced to labourers working as maids, servants, sweepers, daily wage labourers and field labourers. Now, in the name of providing 'entertainment' for the upper classes, whatever remains of the lands and houses are being forcibly taken away”, he said. He further stated that they had been in a dharna from 2nd October in Gujarat and wanted the NCA to visit the colony and take note of the condition of these families.
Shri Afroz Ahmad said that he would raise this issue in the upcoming meeting of the NCA. About the problems of families in R&R sites in Gujarat, he stated that there is discussion on how to monitor this more effectively.
Khajan Chupa spoke about the situation in Madhya Pradesh adivasi villages and the manner in which they had been reduced to destitution even as they demand for land in Madhya Pradesh, while the government seeks to buy their rights in the name of cash compensation. He demanded an immediate reply from Shri Afroz Ahmad, who then stated that the NCA will be directing the M.P. government to immediately purchase land for the R&R of these PAFs. Hearing this, several people demanded that just directing M.P. government was not enough, and NCA must ensure that private lands are purchased for rehabilitation of adivasi families whose lands are already under water.
Kailash Awasya, senior activist, stated that the NCA must also direct the government to compensate those whose lands and crops have already submerged. To this, Afroz Ahmad stated that this would be raised in the NCA meeting. Ashish Mandloi, senior activist, spoke about the situation in Nimad and the game of cash compensation and Special Rehabilitation Package (SRP). “All families who refused cash compensation had been given ex-parte allotments of uncultivable lands and yet the NCA has taken no decision on this”, he said. Shri Afroz Ahmad replied that the non-cultivability of these lands has been accepted and it is for this reason that M.P. is being directed to purchase private lands.
Ashish Mandloi spoke about SRP and the manner in which families were being trapped with fake registries. He also condemned the government enquiry in this matter as being another way of further pinning all blame on the oustees while the corrupt officials and middlemen are let off, scot free. “Cancel the SRP immediately and give land to the displaced, not jail”, he demanded.
Mohan Patidar of Bhavaria raised the issue of tapu survey and stated that this had not been carried out. Shri Afroz Ahmad informed the representatives that this was true and that the NVDA had just begun the process of tapu survey. Ramesh Prajapathi, a potter by profession, spoke of the manner in which the livelihoods of his entire community, not just in the towns of Nisarpur and Dharampuri but also the villages of Navdatoli, Lohara etc, had been taken away from them, since the mud from which they make bricks, tiles and vessels, lie submerged in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir.
Shri Afroz Ahmad promised that this would be immediately looked into and alternative sites for extracting mud could be located and these would be given to the community. On the issue of fishing rights, Shri Afroz Ahmad stated that the NCA was of the view that the affected families must have the entire rights to fishing in the reservoir.
Towards the end of the open meeting, the people demanded in one voice, that THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE DAM UP TO 121.92M WAS ILLEGAL AND HENCE MUST BE IMMEDIATELY BROUGHT DOWN TO 110M. Until such decision was made, the NCA must direct that the water level of the reservoir be brought down to at least 110m. Shri Afroz Ahmad, while agreeing that the construction of the dam was indeed illegal, stated that the option of reducing the water level in the reservoir would be raised in the meeting of NCA, scheduled for the 16th of November at New Delhi.
After four-hour long open meeting, the people decided to continue the dharna until it was conclusively communicated to them that hard decisions would be made in these matters, in the forthcoming meeting of the NCA. Later in the evening, a follow-up meeting was held in the chamber of Shri Afroz Ahmad where, he assured the delegation that this would be done. “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD PERMISSION BE GIVEN FOR THE INSTALLATION OF GATES, HE REITERATED. He promised that the NCA would discuss about reducing the water level of the reservoir, in the 16th November meeting. Pursuant to the meeting, at about 8.00 p.m., it was decided to withdraw the dharna. The people however resolved that if these promises were not realized, then an indefinite dharna would be launched before the NCA.
Clifton D' Rozario