Narmada Samachar: 12 February 2001

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Narmada Sangharsh Parikrama: An Invitation

The monsoon, only a few months ahead, portends increased submergence in the valley following the Supreme Court order permitting increase in the height of the dam. The people of the valley will intensify the struggle against this illogical and anti-people judement. From March 1st to March 7th this year, they will hold the Narmada Sangharsh Parikrama, a march on the streets and through the to-be-affected villages of Nimad, to culminate in a public gathering in Indore.

You, as a friend of river Narmada and her people, are requested to participate in this program and strengthen the struggle of the Valley. More information about the Parikrama can be found at: http://www.narmada.org/events/parikrama2001/parikrama.html.



Koel-Karo dam in Jharkand: Recent police firing on adivasis (tribals)

We enclose an appeal from Bineet Mundu of Delhi Forum about the recent police firing on adivasis protesting the Koel Karo dam in Jharkand. While we not have enough background material about this yet, we hope to provide it in the future. Meanwhile, if any of you come across background material, please send it to us at "subbu@narmada.org".

Koel-Karo Agitation: Urgent appeal for action ; Bineet Mundu (bineet@del3.vsnl.net.in);

It is shocking to know that ten adivasis were killed in police firing in
Tapkara village in the Koel-Karo region of Jharkhand on 2 February. The
police opened fire on an unarmed assembly of around 5000 Munda adivasis,
including children, women and men. According to eyewitness accounts, the
police fired more than 150 rounds, killing five on the spot. Six of those
who had also been shot, succumbed to their injuries in the following
hours. As many as twelve of those who have also sustained bullet injuries
are being treated in the Ranchi Medical College hospital besides many
other wounded who are being treated locally. Some persons have been
reported missing.

The people had assembled to demand an explanation from the police
authorities for breaking the barricade near Derang village on 1 February.
The barricade, erected in 1995 by their jan sangathan (Koel-Karo Jan
Sangathan) was part of the janata curfew imposed in protest of the
proposed dam on the Koel and Karo rivers, and thus a powerful symbol of
their struggle. Importantly, neither the road nor the land on which the
barricade had been constructed was government land. Besides breaking the
barricade, the police had beaten a villager mercilessly when he had tried
to question them about their actions. People in thousands had assembled on
the 2nd demanding that the two police officers who were present in the
jeep who broke opened the barricade should be suspended. And that the
person who was beaten be given monetary compensation (Rs. 50,000) and that
the police respectfully reinstall the barricade as it was before. The
assembled people waited patiently from 8.30 in the morning until 3.30 in
the afternoon for the resolution of their demands. Instead around 3.30,
the lathi charge began and was followed almost immediately by firing. Some
people responded to the bullets with stones even as they ran to protect
themselves. According to the testimonies of two injured persons, the
policemen tried to kill them when they found them alive in spite of the
injury. The police burnt a police vehicle as well as some civilian
vehicles besides destroying the police camp as part of their strategy to
plant evidence in order to be able to claim that the assembly had turned
violent and hence justified the use of fire arms. Importantly, until date,
no government official has visited the site to enquire how the people are
doing nor has any action been taken to suspend the police officials
involved in the firing.

This undemocratic action of the police should be strongly condemned. This
action is seen as an attempt to demoralise the Koel-Karo Jan Sangathan, a
movement which is now more than three decades old. This action of the
Jharkhand State NDA government indicates that the colonial power equations
have not changed. The government, clearly under pressure from
Multi-National Companies and International Financial Institutions like the
World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to open mineral-rich Jharkhand
for their investments, is now resorting to violence on the indigenous
people in order to weaken their popular struggles fighting against issues
such as displacement.

Urgent action needs to be taken on this conspired incident. I request you
to write to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister condemning the
killing of unarmed adivasis demanding for suspension of the magistrate. It
should be demanded that a judicial enquiry be set up to probe this
incident. People of the Koel Karo Jan Sangathan do not accept the
assurance of the Chief Minister's assurance of setting up a "high level
investigation".

Bineet Mundu at Delhi Forum

Contact Info for the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of India

Atal Behari Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India
7, Safdarjung Road,
New Delhi 110001.
Fax: +91 (11) 301 6857 / 301 9545
Email: vajpayee@sansad.nic.in

L.K.Advani
Home Minister of India
Ministry of Home Affairs,Govt of India
Gruh Mantralaya,
New Delhi 110001
Phones: 91-11-3782397, 3782640
Fax 91-11-3015729, 91-11-3782367


Tehri dam: VHP's stance and background articles

During the Kumbh Mela a few weeks ago, Vishwa Hindu Parishad announced that it is against the damming of the Bhagirathi at Tehri, which is one of the tributaries of the Ganga, arguing amongst other things that the damming of the river would take away from the Ganga's holiness. However, on the issue of damming the Narmada river, the group overwhelmingly supports the Sardar Sarovar Project. Two news clippings this week are related to this issue. We also include a couple of articles as background to provide an understanding of the issue.

Singhal warns against Tehri dam construction ; The Hindu - Feb 6
Ashok, teri Ganga maili ho gayee ; Swaminathan Aiyer; The Times of India - Feb 11

Notwithstanding VHP's opposition and Swaminathan's opinion piece enclosed above, one must not forget the real reasons for the opposition of the Tehri dam. Besides the usual problems of displacement, loss of farming land, etc. associated with all large projects, there is also a serious safety issue with this dam. The dam is located in a highly active seismic zone and the recent earthquake has forced the Government to reconsider the dam. As Medha Patkar writes in in the Hindustan times (enclosed as this week's feature article), Sunderlal Bahuguna has worked for a long time to get the Government to re-think the 260.5 dam which is located in a highly active seismic zone in the Garhwal hills. Some background reading below.

Online IRN documents on the Tehri dam ;
Documents available online: 
- Letter from Sunderlal Bahuguna to IRN, June 24, 1997. 
- World Rivers Review, July 1996: "Tehri Stalled by Powerful Fast". 
- World Rivers Review, June 1996: "Tehri Residents Told to Move for Dam". 
- World Rivers Review, November 1995: "India's Dams Fail Environmental Appraisal". 
- "The Tehri Dam Struggle" from the Narmada Bachao Andolan International Update of July 1, 1995. 
Tehri Dam struggle at a crucial stage ; Bharat Dogra; - September 1995
A Himalayan Catastrophe ; Madhu Kishwar; Manushi


Articles on the Guha-Roy debate

Battle of the bookwriters ; The Telegraph - Feb 6
The conceits of representation ; - Feb 7
...
And yet this feast of words leaves at least me with a feeling of profound
irritation. Certainly both Guha and Roy have the right to argue their own
positions on who represents the voice of the marginalised better. Should,
as Roy puts it, concern or empathy guide the voices of those who are doing
the representing? Should passion or cool and careful scholarship dictate
the project, as Guha argues? These questions are legitimate, but I cannot
help feeling that somewhere in all these polemics, the wider questions
have been left out. Surely the issue is not only one of who does the
representing better, for the issue is and should be: why do the tribals
need to be represented at all? Why do they need the vocabularies of those
who possess power over words, or scholarship, as the case may be, to
translate their aspirations, their desires, their passions, into the
language of the translator?

Is it because they lack voice inasmuch as they are unfamiliar with the
terms of the dominant language? I am by no means suggesting that the
marginalised lack agential capacity when I say that they ``lack voice''.
Nor am I indicating that the marginalised cannot represent themselves, or
that they are incapable of self-representation. To ``lack voice'', is to
lack linguistic authority in the domain of civil society simply because
both the sphere and the state happens to be governed by a specialised set
of languages.
...


Other related news

Big bad things ; Rajeev Dhavan; The Hindu - Feb 9


Feature Article: Think of the silent majority - Medha Patkar

The Hindustan Times - Feb 11, 2001


THE PRIME Minister has called for yet another review of the 260.5 meter
high Tehri dam in the Garhwal hills, which is located in a highly active
seismic zone. Sunderlal Bahuguna has sat on several long fasts asking the
Government to re-think on the dam, which, if a quake strikes and the dam
cracks, might lead to a disaster which will be many times more in
magnitude than the tragedy in Gujarat. 

Similarly, there have been doubts raised by experts on the feasibility of
the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat, now that it is confirmed that the
seismic zone here is prone to tremors and quakes of high intensity. That
is why a re-think on this mega-project involving so many dams is a
rational demand, and not a cranky obsession resurrected by 'crazed
eco-terrorists', as we are made out to be. 

Hard facts

Consider these facts: The Interstate Tribunal set up for resolving the
interstate dispute over the Narmada waters and the proposed project,
worked from 1969 to 1979. Before that, Jawaharlal Nehru had inaugurated
not Sardar Sarovar but a much smaller proje ct in Gujarat. The Tribunal
didnít go in for fresh/primary impact assessments but based its decision
(during a 10-year long process) on the submissions (of facts, views,
problems) made by the state governments. Both the Maharashtra and Madhya
Pradesh gove rnments had opposed the idea on the ground that it is a
costly project with meagre benefits. The decision of the Tribunal was
further subject to approval by the Ministry of Environment and Planning
Commission. 

The environmental clearance by the former, granted in 1987 (eight years
after the Tribunal) under the River Valley Project Guidelines and the
Environmental Protection Act of 1986, could not become a final decision
since the planning related to rehabilitat ion and the
assessment/mitigation/ compensation of environmental impacts was not
completed. Time bound conditions were not complied with. For instance, the
Rehabilitation Master Plan was not prepared by December 1989 and hence,
the ministry declared the c learance as having lapsed, asking the Ministry
of Water Resources to seek a fresh okay certificate. 

Implications

What the minority judgment by Justice Bharucha of the Supreme Court points
out is that no fresh clearance proving compliance has been sought by the
dam-builders till this date. This may be shocking but a fact that was
apparently proved in the Supreme Cour t. 

A serious implication is that the Master Plan for rehabilitation with
details of land to be allotted to the project affected is not yet ready.
Where will these families go? 

Take a look at the scale of the problem. Not less than 43,500 tribals,
farmers, fishworkers and small traders will be affected by the reservoir.
(The length of the reservoir is like the distance between Delhi and Agra
or Bombay and Valsad.) Only 25 per ce nt of these people could be
relocated over the last 20 years since the Tribunal award. Does it not
prove that when it comes to the poorest of the poor, the Government simply
does not care? 

Indeed, there has never been any political will or urgency to prepare a
complete plan, while the governments, especially that of Gujarat, kept
boasting of land for land and other provisions in the policy. 

The dam work had to be slowed down or stayed (by the Court) from 1995 till
1999 due to this factor. Today, the dam-height reached is 90 metres; the
final height approved by the Tribunal is 138.68 mts. Justice Kirpal's
judgment permitted further constructi on from 88 to 90 metres on the
condition that the affected should be resettled as per the Tribunal's
recommendations by December 31, 2000. It is now a fact accepted by the
authorities and state governments that this just could not be done,
thereby failing
 to comply with both the Tribunal Award and the Supreme Court judgment.
Why? 

Massive displacement

There is no land. The Gujarat government is playing a dirty trick. There
are hundreds of families in villages on the river bank which the
government refuses to take cognisance of. Both Gujarat and Maharashtra
governments refuse to acknowledge that all tho se 'relocated' are not
actually 'rehabilitated'. 

Look at the scale of uprootment. At least 33,000 families as per official
surveys, (40,000 according to our field surveys), are still in the
reservoir-affected area in Madhya Pradesh. They need thousands of hectares
of agricultural land, even if policy in adequacies are not corrected. And
policies donít offer anything for the non-agriculturists. There are almost
equivalent number of families (40,000) to be affected by the
project-related work. They have been left out of the policy. 

They have rights too

All those who lose their resources have a right to participate in the
planning process and to raise questions not only about fair compensation,
but also for a share in the benefits of the project. A farmer who loses
four out of five acres of land-holding to the reservoir should be treated
at equal par with a farmer who loses in the same proportion. There are
23,500 families losing more than 25 per cent of their land for the canal
network; such losers in the reservoir area are entitled for land for land,
b ut these people have been left out. Surely, no amount of cash
compensation can do justice to a losing farmer, especially the small,
marginal or tribal cultivators. 

The questions related to Sardar Sarovar and big dams go beyond
displacement. There are pro-dam lobbies who glorify large projects. Do
they know that no big dam was evaluated till the World Commission on Dams
got a study of Indian dams done by consultants last year? As a member of
the WCD, I had access to data on hundreds of dams and research work on the
economic, social and environmental impact as well as alternatives to big
dams. The report brings out vividly not just the displacement factor or
the serio us environmental impacts which are not assessed, but also the
issue of bad economics. The fact is that planned benefits are not
actualised in many such projects and costs are not recovered. 

The Bhakra or Indira (Rajasthan) canal projects too point out large scale
water-logging and salinisation problems. The alternatives to big dams in
water management are more obvious than in the energy sector. A
decentralised water harvesting system is a po ssible alternative. In
Bhakra too, most of the growth in production was through ground water
which could be obtained through alternatives which are more acceptable
today than at that time. 

A few years after his famous statement on big dams as 'modern temples of
India', Nehru was quick to understand the paradox: he referred to the
'disease of gigantism'. The SSP benefits are not going to flow to people
on the river banks who are the victims. 
 A small number may be resettled in the command area of the project, but
most people will be totally uprooted. 

With 94,000 MW of power generation capacity attained, we still have 60 per
cent of rural households unelectrified. Water which flows to
urban-industrial centres through big dams is used at the rate of 300-400
litres per capita/per day. Only five per cent of the population use 85 per
cent water, especially in big cities. 

The issue is not just a dam but how to manage our resources. We are
raising this question because the visions of the planners and our rulers
are blurred with the idea of 'profit' from big dams at the cost of a
silent majority. We all need to learn the val ue of a river and living
human communities; that they can't be uprooted and so easily 'replanted'
into a better life.