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Press Release                                 September 16, 1999

Water Almost Reached Where Medha And Others Protesting
Narmada Valley to Face Submergence Due To SSP Again
Satyagrahis Dispersed In Villages To Dare Waters

The backwaters of Narmada have started rising alarmingly from Wednesday (15th September) due to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), threatening the villages and the life of the Satyagrahis. The satyagrahi villagers and activists like Medha Patkar, who have been on the mass action, have dispersed in the threatened villages and would be daring he submergence. As per news received this evening from the villages, the submergence water was barely 1 meter below the house where the Satyagrahis were daring the waters. By late night of Thursday (16th) or early morning of 17th, the water would enter the first house. This time there will be greater submergence and the activists including Medha, Devrambhai, Ranya Padvi - the first batch to offer sacrifice - are determined to face the submergence. Other activists too are in villages like Jalsindhi, Domkhedi, Sikka, Bharad and Pipalchop. Submergence water was some 3 meters below the satyagraha house in Jalsndhi while it was 2 meters below the satyagraha house in Domkhedi. While Bawa Muhariya, Silvy, Alok Agrawal and the other activists are ready to face submergence in Jalsindhi, villagers and activists with Dr. Sugan Baranth and others are determined to dare the submergence in Domkhedi. Ranya Padvi, Medha and other satyagrahis are not in Domkhedi, but are in some other village which would be facing the submergence first.

There has been heavy downpour in the upstream areas of Hoshangabad and ninteen gates of upstream Bargi dam have been opened up releasing about 50,000 cusecs of water in Narmada. It is learnt that the gates of Sukta, Barna abnd Tawa too are opened due to heavy rains upstream. The river level at damsite of SSP was 93.17 meters on Thursday morning (it was 98.5 mts last time). The water level at the dam site is 93 mts. The water level at Rajghat is 121 mts (last time when the submergence happened it was 126 mts). Water is rising at the rate of 2 cm per hour and is expected to submerge the villages in the Narmada valley on 16th night or 17th morning. Hoshangabad had the season's most heavy rainfall during last four days.

The Satyagraha which began in the Narmada Valley on 20th June continued despite the submergence of 10-11th August and arrest of 62 satyagrahis on 11th August. The Satyagrahis, particularly the members of 'samrpit dal' like Devrambhai Kanera, Medha Patkar and Ranyabhau Padvi stood in waist deep submergence water for over 15 hours. The waters receded subsequently. Since then people from villages of higher altitude, not threatened by submergence have also been visiting the Satyagraha centers of Jalsindhi and Domkhedi to discuss the comprehensive issues of land, forest, natural resources and development policies.

This time the Satyagrahis will face the submergence not only from Jalsindhi and Domkhedi, but from all the villages where water will enter including Sikka, Pipal- Chop and Bharad. The police will not have the satisfaction of arresting Medha Patkar without confronting the situation in all the villages. Residents of these villages and the supporters from other villages and towns are prepared to face the waters and the callous disregard of the government towards the rights of the people. The situation in the Narmada valley does not portray "sacrifice" but a valiant struggle of the people for truth in development and against exploitation, repression and deceit.

Nandini Oza
Sanjay Sangvai

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