| NBA Press Release
|| 26 September 2005
No Displacement in the name of Tourism!!
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
On the eve of World Tourism Day (Sept 27th), the NBA demands an end to the displacement of adivasis.
On the occasion of World Tourism Day, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) urges that tribal people should not be displaced in the name of “eco-tourism”. At the Sardar Sarovar dam site, tribal people have already suffered displacement and appropriation of their lands many years ago. But because of their struggle they have managed to stay on their lands. Now, a planned tourism project comes as a new threat.
According to newspaper reports, this so-called “eco-tourism” project is planned on around 1,400 hectares of land and is reported to include infrastructure such as water theme parks, golf courses, hotels, restaurants, cottages and camping facilities. The Ahmedabad-based Centre for Environment Planning and Technology (CEPT) is said to be preparing a master plan for the project.
In Gujarat’s vocabulary, though, “eco” seems to stand for ‘economic’ and not ‘ecological’. It is highly pretentious to term water parks and golf courses as “eco-tourism”. In fact, they are highly damaging to the environment. This is a project that is being pursued to raise funds for the Sardar Sarovar Project, whose financial cost has already increased to more than six times its original cost. So the government of Gujarat seems to have found a way to raise these funds. “Sow a rupee, reap a dollar”, the Gujarat industrial policy suggests.
But the price will have to be paid by the about 900 families in six villages around the dam site - Kevadia, Kothi, Waghodia, Navagam, Limdi and Gora. The agricultural lands and houses of the people of these villages were acquisitioned for the Sardar Sarovar Project colony, now called Kevadia Colony, as early as 1961. At that time, they were offered a measly Rs. 80 to 250 per acre as compensation, far below the true cost of land even at that time. But more importantly, they have not been recognized as project-affected persons (PAPs), meaning that they are not entitled to land-based rehabilitation. They have already lost the rights to their land a long time ago, but because of their struggle, they managed to stay on in their homes and some even continued to cultivate small pieces of land. But now they are threatened with actual eviction, once the planned tourism project is implemented.
Tourism, however, is not the ‘public purpose’ for which their lands were originally acquisitioned. Their lands were acquired for the dam colony. Tourism is considered as an industry and many private enterprises have been invited in to participate in this venture at Kevadia. It is a project being pursued for private interests, not for the public good.
While World Tourism Day is being commemorated by the World Tourism Organization allegedly to “foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic values”, the NBA asks: “who pays the price?” Will tourism at Narmada raise awareness among tourists about the struggles of the adivasis for their livelihood and land? Will tourism educate the visitors about the submerging of culture, history and livelihoods of the people? Or will it lead to further displacement?
A complete rehabilitation plan must be in place before any of these families is evicted. The people of these six villages who are faced with displacement because of tourism at the Sardar Sarovar Dam demand to be recognized as “project affected persons”, and rehabilitated with land and all other amenities.
For people who lose their homes and livelihoods, it makes no difference whether the land is submerged by the rising waters of the Narmada or by the flood of tourists pouring in. For 20 years, people have been fighting, and they will continue to fight for their rights!
“Ecotourism” is not a public purpose! It is a luxury! Stop displacement in the name of tourism!