International Rivers Network Press Release

October 19, 2000

Contact: Patrick McCully; (510) 543 3317 International Rivers Network,
Berkeley, California,

IRN Condemns Indian Supreme Court Go Ahead for Sardar Sarovar Dam

International Rivers Network strongly condemns today's majority ruling by the Indian Supreme Court allowing construction to resume on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River. "The ruling is utterly illogical and an insult to democracy and justice," said Patrick McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network.

The Sardar Sarovar Project is one of the world's most controversial dam projects and would forcibly displace more people than any other infrastructure project in the world except for China's notorious Three Gorges Dam. "Sardar Sarovar symbolizes an outdated and internationally discredited approach to water management," Patrick McCully added.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) filed their case against Sardar Sarovar in 1994. The NBA presented the court with evidence showing that the project will not work as planned, that alternatives are available, that the necessary environmental studies have not been done, and that proper rehabilitation of the hundreds of thousands of people who would lose their livelihoods to the project is impossible. The NBA have for more than a decade led a mass campaign of non-violent resistance to the dam.

The court had stalled construction on the part-built dam wall for most of the past six years. But the final ruling allows the height of the dam to be raised by five meters immediately and then in further five-meter stages based on approval from government committees which have shown themselves to be controlled by pro-dam interests.

One of the three judges on the Supreme Court bench, Justice S.P. Bharucha, issued a dissenting opinion stating that construction should be stopped pending new environmental studies.

The court has given project authorities four weeks to draw up a plan for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the 200,000 people to be displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir. A resettlement plan for Sardar Sarovar was supposed to have been completed in 1981. "If the authorities can't produce a credible plan in nearly two decades, how can they write one in a month?", Patrick McCully asks.

Several hundred thousand other people will lose - or have already lost - their livelihoods to irrigation canals, housing for construction workers, the desiccation of the river downstream of the dam, and a wildlife reserve planned to compensate for the ecosystems to be flooded.

IRN is a California-based environment and human rights organization which supports the rights of communities facing the impacts of destructive water projects and advocates for sustainable and equitable water and energy management.