Narmada Samachar: 13 February 2002
- Sardar Sarovar
- Maheshwar dam
- Tehri dam
- Contempt of court case against Arundhati Roy
- Other news
- Feature Article: After Enron, its Maheshwar - Prashant Bhushan
All this (and more) news can be accessed via the Press Clippings
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Finding that the work of resettling 2,900 Madhya Pradesh oustee families by February-end for taking the Narmada dam height to 100 metres is 'rather complicated', hence 'unachievable', the Gujarat government has agreed to give one more month to the neighbouring state to finish the job. ...
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)today ended its indefinite sit-in outside the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment here today. The protest ended after the Minister, Satyanarayan Jatiya, reached the protest site and informed the activists that the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Sub-Group had not given any permission for further construction on the Sardar Sarovar dam. His Ministry would not allow any injustice to the project-affected families. ...
NBA agitation will continue: Medha Patkar ;
Jatiya Swears by Justice to Oustees: Narmada Dharna at Social
Justice Ministry Ends; No further construction on SSP Dam: NCA for review
of resettlement ;
Protest against move to raise dam height ;
Divided by geography, united by misery ;
Narmada oustees not rehabilitated ;
Activists Of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) staged a dharna on Thursday outside the main entrance of Shastri Bhawan, which houses some of the important ministries including the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, demanding that further construction on Sardar Sarovar dam be stopped immediately. The activists, led by NBA leader Medha Patkar and Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy, alleged that the order of the Supreme Court on the rehabilitation of the dam oustees was not being implemented. ...
Justice Ministry against decision to increase SSP height; Minister Jatiya
Assures to Assess Ground Reality and Protect People's Rights and Laws ;
Eminent Persons Intervene in the Matter of Narmada Dam NBA issues legal notice to R&R Sub-group of NCA ;
NBA flays directive on Narmada dam height ;
Digvijay agrees to withdraw SC case on SSP height: Modi ;
All the bottlenecks for raising the height of the Narmada dam to 100 metres have been removed by successful intervention of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee at a high level meeting attended by the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Following the prime minister's intervention, MP Chief Minister Digvijay Singh assured to withdraw the case from the Supreme Court pertaining to the height of the dam. ...
Narmada Control Authority (NCA) office in Indore; Sit-in continues tomorrow ;
proceedings under M.P. Public money Act; Recovery to take place from
attachment and sale of the properties of Maheshwar Hydro- Electric Project ;
Contempt of court case against Arundhati Roy
The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on the question whether Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy has committed contempt of court and fixed March six for the pronouncement. A Bench comprising Justice G B Pattanaik and Justice R P Sethi rejected an application by Roy for transfer of the case to another bench and reserved its judgement after hearing her counsel Shanti Bhushan and amicus curiae Altaf Ahmed. ...
... If you really want to impress upon the public that you will not tolerate contempt of court, then simply compile a list of all the judgements that you have issued which have been routinely disregarded, and ask for an accounting on each. For example, you could ask why the airwaves, which you declared to be public property two Lok Sabhas ago, are still controlled by the government. You could ask why the tribal lands which you declared to be the inseparable property of our nation's indigenous people, are being removed from their possession. And while you're at it, you could also ask various governments to determine why it is that those you have identified as successfully rehabilitated are standing in chest-deep water around their flooding homes! ...
Rethinking watershed strategy ;
RECENT YEARS have seen a welcome emphasis on watershed programmes as a cornerstone of rural development in India. In our work "India's Drylands", my colleagues and I have shown that spending a mere 1 per cent of the national income on watershed and micro-irrigation development programmes can lead to both employment guarantee and food security in rural India.
SANJAY GUBBI throws light on a tribal resettlement programme that has shown how voluntary resettlement of tribals delivers the twin benefits of social justice as well as consolidating prime wildlife habitat
A watershed in global governance? ;
Was the World Commission on Dams (WCD) a watershed in global governance? Three NGOs - the Lokayan, the American World Resources Institute and the Tansanian Lawyers Environmental Action Team - think so in their independent assessment. According to their report, the WCD marked a departure from previous global commissions. The report says that because of its origins in the international organising of dam-affected people and their supporters, the commission included representatives of project-affected communities. Commissioners came from all points on the political spectrum who, for the most part, were active practitioners in international networks rather than the eminent persons. ...
Feature Article: After Enron, its Maheshwar - Prashant Bhushan
Hindustan Times - February 2
One would have thought that the collapse of Enron, the crown jewel of the privatisation programme in the power sector, would have held some lessons for everyone concerned. Instead, projects like the privatised Maheshwar Power Project show how the tragedy is being compounded and exactly what is fuelling the privatisation of the power sector. Maheshwar illustrates how privatisation is just a process of ?briberisation?, the euphemism coined by this year?s Nobel laureate for Economics, Joseph Stiglitz. No one can understand this better than him. He was the chairman of Clinton?s Council of Economic Advisors, and also the chief economist for the World Bank till he had to quit in disgust after he saw how the WB/IMF-led structural adjustment programme had ruined the economies of the third world countries. Maheshwar is one of the large dams proposed to be built on the Narmada river. It is a hydel project with a projected capacity of 400 MW. It will submerge the lands and homes of 61 villages and it has been estimated to affect over 50,000 persons. It was privatised and handed over to the S. Kumars (of shirting/suiting fame) in 1994. Though the project had received conditional environmental clearance many years ago, every independent appraisal made shows that almost every one of the conditions of clearance has been violated. In the last four years, the project has been appraised by a team of the ministry of environment, rural development and water resources, by a task force of experts constituted by the Madhya Pradesh government, by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, and lastly, by a team of international experts constituted by the development ministry of the German government. Each of these independent expert bodies found that there was no land and no plan for the rehabilitation of the project- affected people, and that even basic and preliminary studies have not been done to assess the social and environmental impacts of the project. Clearly, for the promoters of the project as well as for much of the ruling establishment, the people, being mostly poor Dalits and tribals, are expendable. These projects are viewed only in terms of financial cash flows and profitability. However, an analysis of these cold- blooded cash flows reveals that these projects are fundamentally flawed and will eventually implode like Enron. In 1994, before its privatisation, the cost of the Maheshwar project was estimated at Rs 465 crore. After privatisation, its estimated cost has increased almost five-fold to Rs 2,231 crore as of today. According to its project report, because of the seasonal availability of water, it will generate power at an average plant load factor of less than 25 per cent, out of which 80 per cent will be produced during the monsoon months when power will not be needed. During the non-monsoon months, the project will generate power for only one and a half hours a day! The average cost of power from the project will exceed Rs 6 per unit at the dam site. Maheshwar power, during the period when it may be needed, will cost well over Rs 10 per unit. Remember, the Maharashtra State Electricity Board was unable to sell Enron power to neighbouring states for even Rs 3 per unit. None of this has deterred the Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board from signing a power purchase agreement to purchase all the electricity from this project at this price. The board has even agreed to provide an escrow cover to the project under which the payments to the S. Kumars will have priority over all other payments (such as NTPC which is supplying power at 1/4th of the cost, and even the MPSEB?s workers salaries). Even the assets of the board would stand mortgaged to the company. In the last four years, there has been a procession of foreign collaborators for this project who have come and gone, after the financial and social unviability of the project has been brought home to them by the relentless campaign of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. They include the US construction major Bechtel, the US power utility PacGen, the German power utilities, VEW Energie & Bayernwerk, and finally, another US power utility, Ogden. In fact, even the proposed equipment suppliers, Siemens and ABB, had to bow out because of the refusal of the German and Portuguese governments to provide the necessary guarantees. The result of all this was that out of the total estimated Rs 2,231 crore cost of the project, the total private investment came to be limited to S. Kumars equity of Rs 136 crore (about 6 per cent of the cost of the project). Normally, a project like this would be abandoned by the public and the private sector for cold-blooded financial reasons. Amazingly, though almost no work has been done on the project, the S. Kumars claim to have already spent around Rs 500 crore on the project. Not surprisingly, most of these funds have been drawn from Indian financial institutions such as IFCI and PFC. Though the project does not have the statutory Central Electricity Authority clearance for the escalated cost of Rs 2,231 crore; though the lending of more than 90 per cent of the funds to a privatised power project violates the norms of lending of public financial institutions; though this defeats the object of privatisation of the project which was to use private funds for the project; though the S. Kumars have yet to pay the MP government and the NVDA more than Rs 50 crore spent by the authorities on the project, even seven years after it was privatised (as noted by the CAG in the reports); though IFCI?s own project appraisal implicates the S. Kumars for siphoning out money borrowed from financial institutions for the project. Why then do the financial institutions still continue to lend more money for the project? There are no prizes for guessing why Stiglitz characterises ?privatisation? as ?briberisation? and Advani in an earlier avatar (before the BJP and the Shiv Sena?s spectacular turnaround on Enron), called it ?loot through liberalisation?. And Enron and Maheshwar are by no means exceptions to the rule. They are the rules which are fundamental to the programme of privatisation of the power sector. Far from reducing corruption, privatisation in the power sector has promoted corruption to a whole new realm. Far from bringing in more private funds in the sector, it has in fact led to increased public sector spending per MW of additional capacity. Though this may appear paradoxical, it is fundamental to the whole process. The power sector by its nature must have monopolistic suppliers and public regulators. In a country where a large section of public authorities are corrupt, if you introduce private players whose only goal is to maximise profit, you are increasing the scope and incentive for corruption. This is because the easiest way for a private player to increase his profits is to corrupt the public institutions which are supposed to regulate, finance and adjudicate. Privatisation of the power sector, therefore, is an alliance between the power brokers in the government and the business elite who profit at the expense of the consumers and the public exchequer. The fact is that infrastructure sectors like power, telecom, roads and oil are not structured to perform fairly or justly in a free market. Being natural monopolies or oligopolies, they need regulation. If you are privatising because the government and the public sector are corrupt, then the chances are that much of the regulatory and watchdog institutions will also be corrupt. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts here to deal with corruption. The only way forward, however hard, is to improve the accountability of public institutions including the public sector. Almost every third world country which has gone through the structural adjustment programme has had this experience. Notice how fast even the mighty Soviet economy collapsed after it was opened up to multinational private companies. True, the Soviet economy was in bad shape and there was considerable corruption even before perestroika. But the entry of private multinationals in the country led to a quantum jump in corruption which quickly destroyed whatever was left of the economy. The privatisation of the infrastructure sector will destroy the public financial system and the economy of the country. However, it will greatly benefit, in the short run, the big private players and those who control the institutions of the ruling establishment. It is they who share in the loot and plunder of public funds and resources. It is not surprising that they and the mainstream press they control continue to extol the virtues of the privatisation programme. More reforms, more projects like Maheshwar, spell for India a future like that of Argentina?s. (The writer is a Senior Public Interest Lawyer in the Supreme Court