Friends of Narmada Press Release

October 19, 2000


Friends of River Narmada

Supreme Court judgment is anti-people

The Supreme Court of India verdict on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is entirely against the interests and fundamental rights of the people in the Narmada valley. It has virtually overturned all the achievements of the herioc, non-violent struggle of the people in the valley spearheaded by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA or Save the Narmada Movement).

Over the course of 15 years, the NBA has unearthed evidence that has laid bare the inherently unjust design and planning process of SSP, conceived and implemented without an iota of people's participation. It has exposed the hollowness of the claims by the dam's proponents that SSP would quench the thirst of drought-prone areas of Kutch and Saurashtra, by showing that only 1.6% of Kutch and 9.24% of Saurashtra lie in the command area of SSP and no water is expected to reach there till the year 2020. It has also brought to light the colossal human and environmental costs of the project evidenced by the displacement of nearly 320,000 people and the loss of prime agricultural and forest land.

The World Bank which first gave the project credibility by advancing a $450 million loan, was forced by the NBA's massive campaign to institute an unprecedented independent review commission, the Morse Commission. The Morse Commission severely indicted the World Bank, vindicated all the major concerns of the NBA and recommended that the Bank withdraw from the project. Faced with growing international pressure, the World Bank was forced to withdraw from the project.

Throughout the struggle, the different state governments and the Union of India have displayed a singular lack of concern towards the welfare of the poor and underprivileged people whose lives would be devastated by this project. NBA's journey till date has been marked by grave and repeated atrocities committed by the police and oppressive governments on marginalized communities such as the adivasis (indigenous communities), poor peasants and landless toilers, including their right to peaceably assemble and protest. That the Supreme Court has chosen to ignore all this evidence of duplicity and deviousness by the state, is a travesty of justice and egalitarianism in a democratic society.

The judgement delivered on October 18, 2000, is remarkable for its naiveté and sinister overtones. It expects the governments and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to deliver a land acquisition and rehabilitation plan in four weeks when they have not accomplished it in over 15 years! It expects the state governments to properly address the grievances of the people when the very same governments continue to oppress the people from often even peacefully assembling! Further, the judgement while outlining how further construction would occur, places the arbitration first directly or indirectly in the hands of the project implementers namely the state government, the NCA and finally the Prime Minister, instead of an independent and unbiased entity; and in this way the court also appears to wash off any further responsibility from itself.

NBA started its journey with a right to information campaign in the Narmada valley, demanding details of the World Bank funded project, plans for the affected people, etc. With no information forthcoming from the Governments, NBA declared its opposition to the entire project taking into account the scale of adverse impacts. Displaying a rare degree of spirit, tenacity and courage the Andolan has led the people of the Narmada valley for over 15 years through various non-violent civil actions, sit-in's and hunger strikes. They have faced the challenge thrown up by an insensitive and oppressive government, thrown out the formidable World Bank, challenged the abomination that the Sardar Sarovar dam is, braved the rising waters that submerge the land, forests and livelihood of the people every year, and have been a model and a source of inspiration for people's struggles throughout the world. The Friend of River Narmada believe that this spirit will also enable the Andolan to tide over this unfortunate judgement as well.

The Friends of River Narmada salutes the spirit of the people of the Narmada valley and Narmada Bachao Andolan and stand in solidarity with them.

The Friends of River Narmada is an international coalition of individuals and organizations primarily of Indian descent involved in awareness and solidarity campaigns along with the Save the Narmada Movement [Narmada Bachao Andolan].