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Press Release                                 September 17, 1999 (4pm IST)


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 to move.

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.

Nandini Oza