Press Release November 23, 2001

SANDRP REPORT ON FAILURE OF TEHRI RESETTLEMETNT

Field survey shows utter violation of all R&R norms
Failure to provide land
Absence of proper institutional mechanism to assure R&R
Abuse of human rights

A new report on the Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) aspects of the under construction Tehri dam have found that the project implementation is violating all the R&R norms, the project authorities are unable to provide land as stipulated in the accepted policies (which is in any case inadequate for acceptable resettlement), there is absence of proper mechanisms and norms to assure successful resettlement. For the past 30 years the affected people’s most basic demand has been no land, no dam. The report Testimonies from the Ground: A report on Tehri Rehabiliation by Preeti Sampat and Vimalbhai being released today by SANDRP, based on field surveys, interviews with project authorities and affected people, have recommended that if a social disaster is to be avoided, all construction on Tehri Dam must cease, until the fundamental conditions necessary for success of Resettlement are met.

The Project Tehri Project, one of the largest and most controversial large dams in India, consisting of Tehri and Koteshwar dam, is under construction in the Ganga River basin for almost 25 years in the Northern Himalayan state of Uttaranchal. The project will adversely affect over 100 000 people. The experience with resettlement in India has been dismal. According to a number of studies, including the WCD (World Commission on Dams) India Country Study, at least 75% of some 40 million people displaced for large dams in India over the past five decades have never been resettled.

The experience of the World Bank and other institutions, as also reflected in the report of the WCD, shows that for resettlement to succeed, certain basic requirements have to be met: Existence of a comprehensive and accurate information base regarding the number of people affected, their income structure, livelihoods and resource utilization. A comprehensive policy taking into account all aspects of displacement and all categories of displaced. The availability of land in suitable quality and area to resettle village communities as intact social entities. Full participation of project affected people in planning, design and implementation of a transparent and accountable resettlement process. Detailed resettlement plan, budget and timelines, with a clearly defined linkage between construction, submergence, displacement and resettlement, and an independent monitoring system are some of the minimum conditions necessary to achieve just R&R.

In the case of Tehri none of these requirements are met. Even 25 years after project construction began, no accurate data on the number of people affected is available no credible R&R plan exists. The EIA for the project from 1990 estimates 97,000 people to be displaced by the project, but current data of Tehri Hydro Development Corporation adds up to only about 67,500. Large numbers of affected people are obviously not even included in the R&R package. No socio-economic base studies were done. Land is available for only a minority of PAPs (Project Affected Persons) and that land is of questionable quality or already belongs to other communities. No information, participation or accountability mechanisms exist. To top things off corruption and nepotism are rampant in the entire R&R process.

PROGRESS OF RURAL R&R SO FAR:

  • Over 70% of the rural families are yet to receive basic allotment of Resettlement benefits.
  • Over 90% of those who are called "Partially Affected Families" are yet to be given resettlement benefits.
  • Over 57% of fully affected families are yet to be given land, the basic minimum resettlement facility. Also, the figures above do not include many other affected people.
  • Over 93% of Ex-gratia is yet to be paid.

NO PROGRESS IN LAND FOR R&R SINCE 1997 One of the most shocking aspects of R & R process is that if one looks at closely, in FOUR YEARS between March 1997 and March 2001, the project authorities have achieved practically no progress in acquiring land for resettlement of the affected people. According to the report of the Hanumantha Rao Committee, appointed by the Govt. of India to review the R&R aspects of Tehri Project, by March 1997, "the state government had acquired 4100 acres in 16 clusters for the resettlement of the affected families" from rural areas. According to Govt. of Uttaranchal's R&R report of March 2001, the state government had in its possession 1622 plots of 2 acres each and 666 plots of 0.5 acres each at 16 rural clusters. That amounts to 3577 acres. The March 2001 report has no further claims to availability of land for R&R. That means that in four years between March 1997 and March 2001, the state government has been unable to acquire any new land for resettlement of rural families. This not only shows incompetence of the government in R&R, it in fact shows utter callousness on the part of state government towards the affected people.

PROGRESS OF URBAN R&R Even as the project authorities repeatedly threaten to submerge Tehri town and break off minimum facilities available for the people, they have been able to achieve:

  • no more than 20% of resettlement in bare minimum terms,
  • Over 53% of entitled plot holders are yet to shift.
  • Over 46% flat holders are yet to shift.
  • Almost 90% of house construction assistance is yet to be given.

The ‘progress’ shown above has been achieved after over 25 years of project implementation. It only indicates how many more years it would take to complete the R&R task.

The people displaced by the Tehri project seem to have a bleak future -- worse off than they were before the project; pauperized in the name of development. This dam seems no different from previous precedents of large dams, the R&R failures of which are acknowledged even by the Govt. of India.

In summary, it is entirely clear that the bulk of PAPs will be displaced without resettlement, that R&R in the project is a shambles and that Tehri will lead to the destitution and pauperization of probably more than 100,000 people. In this sense, the Tehri project would be a monument of destruction and not development. The project violates the conditions laid out in the GoI's environmental clearance, the provisions of India's draft resettlement policy and most of the basic recommendations of the WCD report. For the past 30 years the villagers’ most basic demand has been no land, no dam. If a social disaster is to be avoided, all construction on Tehri Dam must cease, until this demand and the fundamental conditions necessary for success of Resettlement mentioned above are met.

For SANDRP


PS: Vimalji, one of the authors of the report, would be available at Ph: 22 18780, on Nov. 23, 2001 to answer any questions you may have on the report and the project.

HARD COPIES OF THE REPORT AVAILABLE WITH SANDRP.
FULL REPORT IN WORD ALSO AVAILABLE WITH SANDRP.