September 17, 1999 (4pm IST)
WATERS RISE IN THE NARMADA VALLEY
SATYAGRAHA CENTRES, FIELDS, HOUSES THREATENED WITH SUBMERGENCE
The waters have started rising since yesterday in the Narmada Valley
as the high rainfall in the upper catchments and releases from the
Bargi, Tawa and Barna dams started accumulating behind the partially
constructed wall of the Sardar Sarovar Project. At about 5.00 p.m.
yesterday (on 16.9.99), the lowest house in the valley, of Noorjie
Samariya at village Pipalchop (Maharashtra), was hardly 1.5 - 2 mts.
above the water level. The water since then has been rising steadily
at the rate of about 6" per hour, and it is estimated that several huts,
and many fields of the people in the Valley may have already been
affected. There is no news from these areas till 3 p.m. today.
The senior activists and village representatives have taken position in
different villages in the submergence zone in the valley to be with the
people and strengthen their hands. Hundreds of people are walking down
the Satpuras and Vindhyas for 3-5 hours to reach the Satyagraha centres,
spread across the valley. Many are coming from Nimad (Madhya Pradesh)
too to join the people in this decisive time.
It may be recollected that the Narmada Bachao Andolan has launched a
satyagraha in the Valley since 20 June 1999, with several hundred
villagers along with senior activists staying at the satyagraha centres
in Jalsindhi (Dist. Jhabua, M.P.) and Domkhedi (Dist. Nandurbar,
Maharashtra), prepared to face the waters of the Narmada rising behind
the partially constructed Sardar Sarovar Project. The height of the dam
was raised from 80.3 m to 88 m earlier this year in February - April.
However, about 2000 families who have been affected by this increase
have not been resettled, essentially as the Government does not have
land for them. These families have also been challenging the whole
project itself, on the grounds of rehabilitation but also on the ground
that the project is not in national interest. While the satyagraha
centres are in Jalsindhi and Domkhedi villages to focus the issue, the
satyagraha itself is spread over about 50 villages where the 2000 or so
families are staying put in their homes and villages, with a resolve not
Doobenge Par Hatenge Nahi (Will drown but will not move) was never a
mere slogan, it is the resolve of the Andolan and this time it will be
yet another test and the people are ready to face it boldly.
This is the second time that the submergence of houses is taking place
in the valley. It may be recollected that on 10-11 August, the waters
had risen and flooded many fields and several houses. The satyagrahis
then had stayed in waist deep waters for over 14 hours, before the
police arrested them. In village Pipalchop (Maharashtra) the house in
which the people were assembled had collapsed due to flooding.
The water level is still rising in the Narmada and is expected to
continue to rise due to heavy rains in the upper catchments especially
near Jabalpur, Hoshangabad, and due to the continuing releases of waters
from Bargi, Tawa and Barna dams.