Narmada Samachar: May 13 2003

Headlines


All this (and more) news can be accessed via the Press Clippings page at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressclippings.html
The NBA press releases are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/nba-press-releases

Archives of Narmada Samachar are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/samachar



Narmada Samachar

Press Clippings

Dam dry, trains to bring water ;
Indian Express; Apr 28, 2003

Narmada brings Gujarat no relief ;
Indian Express; Apr 15, 2003

Medha takes Narmada battle to the UN ;
Newindpress; Apr 11, 2003

Gujarat's 14 PSUs tot up Rs 3117-cr loss in FY02 ;
Economic Times; Apr 03, 2003

Narmada water flows again, but not into Sabarmati river ;
Economic Times; Apr 03, 2003

Speculations put to rest about construction of NSP ;
Central Chronicle; Mar 31, 2003

Patkar lends support to Tehri movement ;
Outlook India; Mar 24, 2003

Indian plan to link all its rivers ;
Hi Pakistan; Mar 15, 2003

NBA Press Releases

Fifth And Final Day of Dharna: Strenghtened Resolve to Fight in The Coming Days ;
NBA Press Release - Apr 25, 2003

Government Starts Talks with People on dharna ;
NBA Press Release - Apr 24, 2003

Indefinite dharna in Mumbai by various people affected by Maharashtra development projects from April 21st ;
NBA Press Release - Apr 21, 2003

Centre and Madhya Pradesh government unite to ignore public financing norms and serious financial irregularities to inject public money in favorite S.Kumar's Maheshwar Project; People of the Narmada valley determined to fight this unholy alliance ;
NBA Press Release - Apr 04, 2003

Asia Development Bank pushing Madhya Pradesh into slavery; Declaration of collective struggle in state level workshop ;
NBA Press Release - Mar 10, 2003

Alirajpur dharna enters 13th day ;
NBA Press Release - Mar 05, 2003

Anti-adivasi approach of the administration ;
NBA Press Release - Mar 03, 2003

Legal Notices Issued to Narmada Valley Development Authority ;
NBA Press Release - Mar 02, 2003

Press Excerpts

San Francisco Loves Whale Rider ;
Xtra News; May 01, 2003

... Runner-up for documentary favorite was Franny Armstrong's Drowned Out, a study of the devastation caused by India's Narmada River dam project ...

Narmada Dam: drowning out the truth ;
Kuldip Nayar;Daily Times; Apr 28, 2003

... The point at issue is not the existence of the Narmada Dam but the Modi Government's propaganda, on resettling the people who have been uprooted ...

Deeply distressed ;
Amit Jain;Economic Times; Apr 27, 2003

... THE deep discount bond from the Sardar Sarovar Nigam Ltd (SSNL) was floated in late 1993 and is due to mature in 2013. The issue price for each bond was Rs 5000, which would be redeemed at Rs 1.11 lakh each. While the first call/put option has already passed, another one is exercisable in 2004 ...

Sleaze-ridden capitalism ;
Jayanti Ghosh;Frontline; Apr 26, 2003

... The way in which public funds have been channelled to the defaulting private promoter of the Maheshwar dam project belies the ruling establishment's claim that neo-liberal market reforms have brought greater transparency and accountability into the system ...

RMC pours contaminated water over their joy ;
The Indian Express; Apr 09, 2003

... Though Narmada water is here, residents of Rajkot are an unhappy lot. What is the reason for their short-lived happiness? Well, while they await the sweet waters of Narmada, what flows through their taps is foul-smelling, yellowish water ...

Construction of Bargi division project in full swing ;
Central Chronicle; Apr 07, 2003

... The construction of 194-km long Bargi division project is in full swing. Being constructed from the Right Bank of Rani Avantibai Sagar reservoir of Jabalpur, the canal project is estimated to cost Rs 2,600 crore. On completion, the project would irrigate 2.45 lakh hectare land ...

Rajkot residents rejoice as Narmada flows through their taps ;
Hiral Dave;The Indian Express; Apr 07, 2003

... Their prayers have been answered and they show their gratitude by holding pooja and distributing sweets. An outsider may not be able to understand the reason for such excitement, but for the people of Rajkot who have lived through four drought-like years in a row, the arrival of Narmada water is definitely an occasion to celebrate ...

Oustees will be ruined if dam heightened: Medha ;
The Times of India; Apr 07, 2003

... Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar alleged on Thursday that Maharashtra chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde had reversed his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh's policy on the resettlement of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar project ...

Narmada to soon flow from your taps: AUDA ;
The Indian Express; Apr 06, 2003

... Lakhs of people who stay within the jurisdiction of Ahmedabad Urban Development authority (AUDA) can expect the Narmada waters to flow from their taps from December provided they are ready to shell out Rs 3,000 as a one-time connection charge ...

Chudasma to meet M'rashtra minister ;
Times of India; Apr 03, 2003

... State Narmada development minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasma and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam managing director K C Kapoor are to leave for Mumbai on Saturday, to meet Maharashtra rehabilitation minister to obtain clearance for raising the height of the Narmada dam to 100 metres ...

Speculations put to rest about construction of NSP ;
Central Chronicle; Apr 01, 2003

... Railways today put to rest all apprehensions that the construc- tion of Naramada Sagar Project (NSP) would be delayed due to delay in shifting of Khirkiya-Timarni railway lines. The railway official asserted that the work for the laying the new railway lines on Khirkiya-Timarni would be completed by December 2003 ...

Kalpsar project: feasilbility study to be conducted ;
Ahmedabad Newsline; Mar 23, 2003

... KALPSAR, the much publicised multi-dimensional development project may finally take off in the next few years as the State Government has finally set up a special department for the purpose and experts are readying themselves to conduct specific studies into the feasibility of the project ...

SSP, Indira Sagar become archeologcal sites ;
Central Chronicle; Mar 20, 2003

... Remains of 4000 year-old civilization have been found in Indira Sagar project area while traces of a 3000 year-old civilization has been found near Sardar Sarovar project. Excavation on large scale is being carried out at these sites. The findings are very important for archaeologists of MP and would add a new chapter in the history of the state ...

Water privatization not the answer: American activist ;
Japan Times; Mar 17, 2003

... Patrick McCully had a revelation in India more than a decade ago. The campaign director of International Rivers Network witnessed indigenous people inGujarat state, India, risking their lives to protest construction of a dam on the Narmada River. All were eventually arrested, but government officials and engineers covered it up, claiming the case had been settled peacefully, he said ...

The passionate pen ;
Natal Witness; Mar 16, 2003

... WHEN Arundhati Roy won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel, The God of Small Things, she was the instant darling of middle-class India. She was the first Indian woman and the first Indian author living in the country to win fiction's major award - and she was only 36. ...

Interlinking the unwitting ;
Ashwin Mahesh;Rediff; Apr 4, 2003

... The popular imagination of the middle and upper classes often supports large infrastructure projects, while at the same time these are bitterly opposed by many poor communities. These initiatives range from modest city-specific plans such as flyovers and airport expansion plans, to large ones with significant statewide or regional impacts, such as the Dabhol power plant or the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada. Local communities and public interest groups have fought these initiatives tooth and nail, but among the chattering classes these battles are seen usually as hurdles along the path to development. Most privileged urban families have little knowledge of the trail of woe that pipes water into their homes, keeps their refrigerators humming, and paves 'their' roads .....



Feature Article: A people savaged and drowned - Harsh Mander

Frontline - Apr 12, 2003

The report of a fact-finding team documents the colossal suffering imposed on the people in the Narmada Valley in the name of development.

DURING the monsoons in August and September 2002, some of the tribal villages affected by the Sardar Sarovar and Mann dams were submerged by the rising waters, and standing crops and homes were destroyed. The Housing and Land RightsNetwork of Habitat International Coalition set up a fact-finding team to investigate the effects of the 2002 monsoon and to assess the current status of the rehabilitation of the people affected by the Narmada Valley projects. The team visited the affected villages and rehabilitation sites, and met with several officials, activists and affected people.

A very small number of concerned citizens gathered for the release of the team'sreport in New Delhi on March 31, 2003. But those who did were wrenched by the painstakingly documented colossal human suffering imposed once again on vulnerable tribal people by the state, in the cause of what continues to go by the name of `development'.

The ordeals of the residents of the villages that were submerged, echo dully theexperience of 50 years of planned development, which has entailed many such large-scale forced evictions of vulnerable populations, without the countervailing presence of policies to assist them to rebuild their lives. Most of the negative aspects of displacement, such as lack of information, failure toprepare in advance a comprehensive plan for rehabilitation, the undervaluation of compensation and its payment in cash, failure to restore lost assets or livelihoods, traumatic and delayed relocation, problems at relocation sites, multiple displacement, and neglect of the special vulnerabilities of the most disadvantaged groups have been repeatedly highlighted by activists and scholars in the past. Yet, last monsoon, the authorities in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh demonstrated their stubborn resolve to refuse to learn from their mistakes. As the height of the Sardar Sarovar project continues to rise, more suffering, manufactured directly as the result of state policy, is in store for the vulnerable people of the Valley, in the coming monsoons.

With the adoption of policies for planned development after Independence, a major priority for policy-makers was the harnessing of the country's water resources for irrigation and power. Support to earlier technologies, based on diversion or run-of-the-river schemes, gradually diminished in favour of large dams. The visibility, scale and sweep of mega dams made them potent emblems of the reconstruction and regeneration of the battered economies of long-suppressedpost-colonial nations.

Although enthusiasm for mega dam projects amongst policy-makers remains largely undimmed, a formidable body of independent empirical research into many of theselarge dams has established how their social, human and environmental costs have been ignored or grossly understated in the planning of these projects, and the expected benefits exaggerated. The actual output of irrigation and power of these projects has fallen short, sometimes spectacularly, of the level on the basis of which investment on the project was initially justified. Of the very many neglected costs of the big dams, some of the most grave are the social and human consequences of displacement.

It was clear from the start that mega projects lead to the displacement or forced uprooting of substantial populations, particularly for projects that entail large-scale submergence for reservoirs. However, national leaders and policy-makers typically viewed these as legitimate and inevitable costs of development, acceptable in the larger national interest. Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, while laying the foundation-stone for India's first major river valley project, the Hirakud Dam in Orissa in 1948, said to the tens of thousand of people who faced the grim prospect of displacement: "If you have to suffer, you should do so in the interest of the country."

The same sentiments were echoed 36 years later by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in a letter to one of India's most respected social workers, Baba Amte. She wrote: "I am most unhappy that development projects displace tribal people from their habitat, especially as project authorities do not always take care to properly rehabilitate the affected population. But sometimes there is no alternative and we have to go ahead in the larger interest."

THE Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), the biggest dam of the Narmada Valley Development Project, envisages the construction of 30 big dams and more than 3,000 medium and small dams on the Narmada and its tributaries. The SSP is beingconstructed on the Narmada in Gujarat. It is a multi-purpose, inter-State project that involves the construction of a large dam (138.68 m high) in Gujarat, being implemented by the governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, with the active participation and assistance of the Government of India.

In 1994, grave concerns regarding rehabilitation and the environmental impacts of the project were raised in the Supreme Court by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The court stayed work on the project from 1995 until 1999. However, on October 18, 2002, the Supreme Court cleared the way for the continued construction of the dam, and said that compliance with conditions on which clearance of the project was given, including the completion of relief and rehabilitation work, should be ensured. Since then, there have been several reports that the rehabilitation of people affected at a dam height of 90 metres has not been completed, which led to the demand that the height of the dam should not be raised further. Nonetheless, the dam height was raised again, to 95 m, in May 2002.

In its report, the fact-finding team found that submergence owing to the 2002 monsoons and the raising of the dam's height in May 2002 has destroyed the cropsand homes in SSP-affected villages in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, rendering some of the villagers homeless. The people face a severe food and drinking watershortage. In Jalsindhi, Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh, and Domkhedi, Nandurbardistrict, Maharashtra, the team witnessed the destruction of homes and standing crops.

The team also reported brutal repression of democratic protests by the local villagers and activists of the NBA against the forced submergence. According to the report, Khiyali Bai from Domkhedi stood in the rising monsoon waters inside her house with other villagers on the evening of August 20, 2002. On the morningof August 21, 2002, when the water reached their lips, 200 policemen arrived with two barges and arrested the protesters. Khiyali Bai said that she told the police: "This exercise of saving us is meaningless. We are asking for alternative land, why are you taking us to jail? How is that a safer place? We are in our own homes, we have not committed any crime, why should we be arrested?" She was transported to three different towns over the course of 24 hours, and was then jailed in Dhulia, Maharashtra, for four days. The waters destroyed her house and her family's crops and swept away all their personal belongings. Bava Mahare, one of the residents of Jalsindhi, told the team, "Whenwe ask for proper land, we are shown jail cells. I have not done anything wrong,never bribed or anything. I have only been arrested when I have organised tribalpeople and asked for things. I have been arrested eight or nine times."

The rehabilitation sites that the team visited were not fit for habitation. At Gehalgaon and Gopalpura rehabilitation sites, Dhar district (Madhya Pradesh), there are some rocky, uneven plots for housing, and villagers explained that they had rejected the resettlement sites as unsuitable, in part because there was no provision for agricultural land or alternative livelihoods.

The team found that the residents of Chikhalda, also in Dhar district, affected when the dam's height was scaled up to 95 m, have not been resettled at all. Nine-hundred families live in Chikhalda, and 75 per cent of their agricultural land is expected to be submerged. One hundred and sixty-eight families were recently issued notifications that they were in the anticipated submergence areaat 95 m. These families are now falsely listed in the government's Action Taken Report as having been rehabilitated. The land initially chosen by the governmentfor the Chikhalda resettlement colony was rejected by the people because this land was itself in the submergence area. Gehalgaon and Gopalpura in Dhar district are listed as rehabilitation sites almost ready but the team found that at each rehabilitation site, there were three empty structures: the school, dispensary and grain store. The hand-pumps were not working; electric poles did not carry wires. There are a few small houses built at the sites but they were locked and abandoned. No agricultural land has been provided at these sites; only house plots have been marked out.

The team also visited one of the oldest rehabilitation sites in Gujarat - Aggar in Narmada district. Even though it was set up more than 10 years ago the team found that problems related to land and other basic facilities were still unresolved. Savita Behn, an Adivasi, has been forced to become a labourer from being a farmer after moving to the Aggar resettlement site. She has to travel for 24 hours to Kathiawar leaving her infant and two younger children at the resettlement site. She told the team of her desire to return to her previous home, even if she risked death by drowning. She felt that it would be better than the miserable life that she was leading in the resettlement colony. Moreover, Aggar has no cremation ground, provision for irrigation water, secondary school or transport facilities or any grazing land. People do not have access to the forest for firewood or non-timber resources, which traditionally are major livelihood resources for tribal communities.

A grave subversion of people's elementary legal rights to rehabilitation was reported by the team, because the State governments are issuing ex-parte house and agricultural land allotments to "nonresponsive" project-affected families; that is, families not accepting any rehabilitation offer of the State. The government sends a notice to the oustees informing them of the allotment of a house or land to them, often in another State. Once this notice is sent, the people, even while they live in their original villages, are counted as rehabilitated on government records. In Jalsindhi, nine project-affected families were given ex-parte notification of land in Gujarat, even though they had been asking for land in Madhya Pradesh. Similar was the case of 16 project- affected families in Chikhalda, who are now shown as rehabilitated in the Action Taken Report of the government of Madhya Pradesh. A task force set up by the Maharashtra government also examined the phenomenon of ex-parte allotments. In its report in September 2002, it admitted that some of the land being given as ex-parte allotments in Maharashtra was already being cultivated or was owned by other people and some of the land was uncultivated.

The fact-finding mission cited evidence from Madhya Pradesh to illustrate that "rehabilitation is being emphasised only as a numbers game, to prepare lists and tables and charts and documents, and even empty resettlement colonies, in order to create the illusion of rehabilitation. However, the charts and tables do not reflect reality in terms of who has been or will be affected or who has been rehabilitated. The emphasis seems to be on creating records and documents that can be used to support an increase in the dam height, rather than ensuring the right to housing of those affected by the project".

THE evidence collected by the fact-finding team regarding the Mann Dam irrigation project is even more damning. A 53m tall dam is being constructed on the Mann, a tributary of the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh. The families affected by the project, in both the submergence areas and the command area, are predominantly tribal - people belonging to the Bhil and Bhilala communities.

The report states that the residents of Khidi Balwadi village - the first village slated for submergence - launched a satyagraha, demanding land-for-land and full rehabilitation before submergence. Even as the outstees were on dharna and fast, on May 17, 2002, school buildings were razed in the submergence villages; all hand-pumps (the only sources of drinking water during summer in Dhar district, which had faced a drought for the last four years) were removed; electricity connections were severed; transformers lifted away; and trees were chopped down in an attempt to make living conditions miserable and coerce the village residents into abandoning their homes. On July 20, 2002, several hundred police personnel, a large number of whom were armed, surrounded the village and forcibly evicted people from their homes. It was market day, and most of the men were away from the village. The women questioned why they were being taken from their homes when they had not been rehabilitated and had done nothing illegal. The police dragged them into trucks and began beating with lathis those who resisted. In the process, many of the women's saris came off.

Involuntary relocation is always extremely painful, but sensitive state authorities can do much to relieve its trauma. In practice, however, it has been observed that the driving objective of project authorities has not been to prepare and assist the families to relocate and to make a gradual and less painful transition to their new habitats. Instead, often, the only objective is to vacate the submergence zone of what are perceived to be its human encumbrances, with the brute force of the state if necessary. The report of the fact-finding mission is evidence that the approach of state authorities to vulnerable project-affected people remains unchanged.

Monsoons will come and go. As the rains - normally life-giving and life- affirming - splatter the graceful Narmada Valley that has for centuries nurtured nature, many forms of life and a gentle civilisation of tribal people wait to see which new village will be savaged, its forests drowned, its people dispersed, pauperised and then forgotten? In the end, we all stand indicted: state authorities, political leaders, courts, writers, development workers, journalists, ordinary citizens, all who resolutely refuse to see or care.