IRN Press Release
August 3, 1999
ACTIVISTS "DROWN" IN FRONT OF INDIAN EMBASSY IN U.S.
PLEASE REPLY TO PATRICK@IRN.ORG
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC, 9:30 am. A one hundred square foot dam painted with the
slogan "KILL THE DAM OR THE DAM WILL KILL" was erected today, blocking the
street in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington, DC. Two men and two
women, muddy, wet and surrounded in debris, laid lifeless on the street in
front of the dam. Around 50 supporters waved flags and placards and chanted
slogans in support of the people of India's Narmada Valley. Thousands of
people are in imminent danger of drowning as the monsoon-swelled waters rise
behind the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River in Gujarat State in
A letter calling upon the President of India, K.R. Narayanan, to protect the
rights of the country's adivasis, or 'tribals', was presented to the
Ambassador. For more than a decade, the people of the Narmada Valley have
been fighting dams on the river. The Sardar Sarovar Dam has displaced tens
of thousands already and would eventually uproot almost half a million
people. After countless hunger strikes, marches, demonstrations and other
protests, the Supreme Court suspended construction of the dam in 1994. This
past February, however, the court allowed the height of the partly-built dam
to be increased by a further five meters.
With no proper plans for their resettlement, the adivasis (or 'tribals') of
the Narmada Valley have resolved to remain in their houses and face the
rising water rather than let their lands, rivers, culture and lives be
destroyed. Extensive studies including a report for the World Bank by
former head of the UN Development Program, Bradford Morse, show that the
benefits of this project have been greatly exaggerated and that less
expensive, more sustainable alternatives exist.
"These people have symbolically 'drowned' here at the embassy today to show
the government of India that there is international support for the struggle
of the people of the Narmada Valley and great concern for their plight,"
says Patrick McCully of International Rivers Network. A 7-year-old adivasi
girl, Lata Vasave, was drowned on July 7 after becoming trapped in thick mud
deposits on the edge of the Sardar Sarovar reservoir.
The DC action was one of several taking place around the world to mark an
international day of solidarity with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the
Narmada Movement). In India, several hundred writers, journalists and
activists, led by Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy, held a rally in
the adivasi village of Jalsindhi, which is partly submerged by the waters
behind Sardar Sarovar. The residents of Jalsindhi refuse to leave their
homes despite the constant threat of drowning.
Protest vigils are being held today outside the Indian consulates in Toronto
and San Francisco. In Tokyo, Friends of the Earth activists conveyed their
support for dam opponents in meetings with the Indian Ambassador and
executives from Sumitomo Corporation, which is building turbines for Sardar
Sarovar. In Sydney, Australia, a letter protesting the Sardar Sarovar Dam
and endorsed by a number of environmental and human rights groups will be
presented to the Indian consulate.
For more information, contact International Rivers Network in Berkeley, CA
at 510-848-1155 or Sanjay Sangvai with Narmada Bachao Andolan in India at
+91 265 382232.
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International Rivers Network supports local communities working to protect
their rivers and watersheds. We work to halt destructive river development
projects, and to encourage equitable and sustainable methods of meeting
needs for water, energy and flood management.