Narmada Samachar: 15 September 2002

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



Sardar Sarovar

Guj govt has overdrawn Rs 1400 crore from RBI : Congress ;
Outlook; Sep 12, 2002

SC disposes NBA plea on relief ;
The Hindu; Sep 9, 2002

Demand to stall Narmada projects impractical: Dy CM ;
Central Chronicle; Sep 10, 2002

Medha Patkar taken to safety ;
The Hindu; Sep 4, 2002

Narmada oustees offered best compensation ;
Central Chronicle; Sep 2, 2002

End of a 40-yr wait ;
Indian Express; Aug 31, 2002

NBA activists protest standing in neck-deep Narmada water ;
NDTV; Sep 4, 2002

Narmada function a BJP stunt: Mayor ;
Times of India; Aug 29, 2002

'Techno-savvy' Modi to welcome Narmada-Sabarmati sangam ;
Ahmedabad.com; Aug 28, 2002

Insinuation Rules ;
Rediff; Aug 28, 2002

MP demands more money for rehab of dam oustees ;
Times of India; Aug 26, 2002

NBA activists ready to face submergence in Narmada waters ;
Ahmedabad.com; Aug 26, 2002

`Modi lobbying to raise dam height' ;
The Hindu; Aug 25, 2002

Modi to meet Deshmukh to expedite rehabilitation of PAPs ;
Times of India; Aug 23, 2002

Gujarat relieved as water finally flows into Sabarmati ;
NDTV; Aug 23, 2002

Many dead as dam collapses in MP ;
Times of India; Aug 21, 2002

Massive Devastation By Submergence; Narmada People Demand Compensation,
No Increase In Dam Height And Task Force Report
;
NBA Press Release - 10 Sep 2002

RBI must direct CBI to investigate grave financial irregularities in
S.Kumars promoted Maheshwar Project; Stop corporate loot of public money
;
NBA Press Release - 8 Sep 2002

Multi-purpose Kalpasar project gets Cabinet nod ;
Ahmedabad.com; Sep 13, 2002

...

The state Cabinet presided over by Chief Minister Narendra Modi gave a green signal to the ambitious multi-purpose Kalpasar project conceived by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel at a meeting. The Cabinet while officially accepting the project estimated to cost of whopping Rs. 54,000 crores, decided to go ahead with the preparation of the final feasibility report on Kalpasar by constituting a core group of national and international experts to study the technical aspect. Necessary authority was also given to the care taker Chief Minister for taking decision for setting up the core group. Considering the estimated cost of Rs. 21,000 crores for the Narmada project, which is the biggest project of the country, the Kalpasar, if it materialises, will cost up to five times the amount as per preliminary estimates.

...

NBA petition on rehabilitation disposed ;
Times of India; Sep 9,2002

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In a setback to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the Supreme Court today disposed of its petition seeking to point out that Narmada Dam height was raised without proper rehabilitaton of the dam oustees in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

...

Mansoor Khan meets NBA ;
Mid-Day; Sep 8,2002

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I have visited the Narmada Valley four times in the last three months. The last time, I stayed with the activists for eight days, and visited some of the villages. I spent a night in Domkhedi, and by the next afternoon, the village was submerged. I have photographs of water rushing into the houses, the utensils being swept away. The huts disintegrate when they fill with water you canít tell the walls from the roof. The water level rises and recedes; the villagers donít know when the next flood will come. If it comes in the middle of the night, they have to pack up what they can and move to a drier region.

...

100 NBA activists trapped in Narmada flood water at Domkhedi ;
Hindustan Times; Sep 4, 2002

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About hundred NBA activists, staging 'satyagraha' in protest against the increased height of Sardar Sarovar Project, were trapped on a hill in Domkhedi village in north Maharashtra as the water of flooded Narmada entered the village, official sources said on Wednesday.

...

Sudan plans Nile dam ;
BBC; Sep 2, 2002

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Sudan is preparing to short-list companies to build a $1.73bn dam on the Nile in the country's north to provide more electricity and cut flooding. ...

The poor and the permanent 'drought' ;
India Together; Sep 2002

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Not a word is being said about the next likely policy move - the privatisation of water use. P Sainath in the first of a two-part article. Ten good monsoons and we still managed to wreck Indian agriculture. Imagine what we could do with a bad one. And so far, it doesn't look good. Many reservoirs in Orissa are close to

"dead storage levels". At that point, you can't release water for power generation or irrigation. And Orissa is a State where distress sales from the last crop wrecked lakhs of farmers, anyway. In Andhra Pradesh, the number of peasants voting with their feet is on the rise. Even in already high-migration districts like Anantapur. Rajasthan's rural poor are seeing the shredding of the little food security they had left. Close to two-thirds of all districts have seen poor rainfall. For rural folk dependent on agriculture, the next 20 days will be thick with tension. Some rains now in Rajasthan, A.P. and Maharashtra hold out a little hope. But if there's no more by August 15, we're looking at major crop loss. If August 15-31 goes the same way, recovery won't be easy. Distress levels, already high, will soar. This is just the beginning. ...

"Arundhati Roy is foolish" ;
Mid-Day; Aug 31, 2002

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Ashutosh Gowariker on Friday launched Ramachandra Guhaís book on the social history of Indian cricket, A Corner of A Foreign Field: The Indian History of a British Sport, at the British Council auditorium.

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Losing paradise ;
Hindustan Times; Aug 30, 2002

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For several years I have written extensively about the Tehri dam and what a disaster it would be for the environment. Built on an earthquake-prone fault in the Himalayas, there would be a catastrophe if the dam should burst.

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Fighting drought with wishful economics ;
India Together; August 2002

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With indictments coming from virtually every side, India Together reviews the latest financing situation of the Sardar Sarovar dam project in Gujarat. Yet another indictment of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river came in 2001 from the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), a state government commission. In its report of March last year, the GEC says, "A glance at the map of the command area of the (Narmada) project clearly indicates that,large areas of water deficit regions would not get any water from the Narmada Project." ...

Water policy not down to earth ;
Deccan Herald; Aug 27, 2002

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Water is a vital natural resource and its efficient management is crucial for both livelihood and environment security. Recognising this, the National Water Resource Council (NWRC) recently amended the National Water Policy (NWP) 1987 and adopted National Water Policy (NWP) 2002 at its fifth meeting on April 1 2002....

Water in India - Nor any drop to drink ;
The Economist; Aug 22, 2002

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India has plenty of water, but lacks good systems political as well as infrastructuralfor allocating it. Andhra Pradesh is pointing the way

...



Feature Article: The truth will out -

The Guardian - August 26, 2002

She had no commission, no crew... and she was in jail. So what could documentary maker Franny Armstrong possibly do for the tribal villagers being displaced by the Narmada dam in India?

I had been intending to spend the solar eclipse of 1999 staring at the Cornish sky through plastic glasses. But over a shoulder on a crowded train one morning I came across an article in the Guardian entitled Villagers in Shadow of Dam Await the End of the World. Six days later I did get to see the eclipse - but sardined in the back of an Indian police truck winding through the Narmada River valley on my way to jail. The 80-odd tribal villagers who had also been arrested were praying intensely - as you would if the world went dark just as your ancestral village was submerged.

Spending the night together in jail, we made our introductions. I'm a documentary maker from London, recently recovered from a three-year epic about the McLibel Trial. They are Adivasis - the original inhabitants of India - who have farmed their land by the Narmada for at least 12 generations. They filled in my sketchy understanding of the story: big dam to displace 250,000 people along river valley, 40m others to get water and electricity. But dam design flawed as river calculations inaccurate. And water really intended for industrialists, agribusiness and three large cities. Worldwide protest and many authoritative reports highlight countless problems. Government goes ahead anyway.

This left the Adivasis with three choices: they could move to a government resettlement site with salty drinking water and inadequate land; they could accept paltry cash compensation and head for a big city slum; or they could stay at home and drown.

Each option would eventually lead to an early grave, they explained. And if they had to die, they would rather it was with dignity and on their own terms. Which is how I came to be filming them standing chest deep in the rising water, until the police waded in and arrested us all.

We were out of jail the next day and the mood back at the village was, surprisingly, jubilant. My camera assistant-cum-sister - last seen disappearing upriver on a log boat just before the police arrived - had managed to get our footage on to Star TV's national news. New supporters were arriving and the immediate threat of submergence was over until next year's monsoon season.

So I headed back to London to get a solar battery charger and a TV commission. Not that I held out much hope for the latter. British TV is no longer interested in poor people in far away places, except as a backdrop to rich people surfing, clubbing or playing survival games. (Recent research by the Third World and Environment Broadcasting Trust showed that the five terrestrial TV channels between them broadcast a total of four programmes on the politics of developing countries in the year 2000/1).

But I did think we had a chance with this one, as Booker-prize winning author Arundhati Roy had recently become the public face of the campaign against the dam: "As a writer, I was drawn towards it like a vulture to a kill. Instinctively I knew that this was the heart of politics, this was the story of modern India." Plenty of TV companies were interested in the beautiful celebrity, but none in how and why the farmers had decided to drown.

Shovelling rejection letters aside, I borrowed a few thousand pounds and headed back to India. Only partly from sour grapes, I also started work on my theory of why documentaries work better without a commission. It starts at Heathrow, where I was whinging about the weight of my single rucksack jammed full of camera, lights and sound kit. Had I been making documentaries for the BBC 15 years ago, I'd have needed six people to carry the equipment and a corporation-sized bank balance to buy it. But those days ended with the arrival of the new breed of cheap, lightweight video equipment.

Two planes, three rickshaws, two buses, a boat, a motorbike and an eight-mile hike later, I'm back in the village and I've found my lead character. Luhariya Sonkariya's house is lowest on the river bank and will be first to be submerged. He is also the healer, holy man, comedian, musician and general centre of attention. He quickly grasps the film-making basics and takes it upon himself to brief everyone else - pretend the camera isn't there, never look into the "eye" (lens) and don't adjust your lungi (sarong) or the radio mic will fall off.

Luhariya first showed me the village's sacred place where 10,000 people used to attend the annual Holi festival until the half-built dam submerged their gods. Next I followed him into the forests surrounding the village. He restocked his supplies and explained how each plant is used - to make plates, rope or cigarettes or to cure stomach cramps, axe wounds or burns. "They really work," he said, noting my bemused expression. Several days later, one of his pastes applied to my forehead eased a raging fever.

There was just one setback with Luhariya: his wife Bulgi was initially too shy to appear on camera. But after several weeks living, sleeping, ploughing fields and rolling chappatis with the family, she trusted me sufficiently to at least watch the rough cut from last year's footage. She pressed her face close against the camera's flip-out screen for a tense 15 minutes, then, fighting back tears, asked: "What do you want me to do?"

Bulgi came to be the emotional centre of the film, nailing many complex arguments with simple soundbites such as: "They only offer us land on paper. But we can't cultivate on paper, can we?" There's no way she would have been persuaded by a big film crew storming in and out on a tight schedule.

Where my low-budget limitations helped achieve greater intimacy with the villagers, they also turned out to be an advantage with the pro-dam contingent. The kind of narrow-minded, old-fashioned politicians who still think big dams are a good idea cannot comprehend that a young, scruffy, female person is making television. They drop their guard completely and allow the condescension to ooze through to the camera. Gujarat's minister for Narmada irrigation, Mr Vyas, even invited me back to his sumptuous house to show off his collection of tribal

artwork and to explain why the tribal people should give up their way of life

"gladly, willingly, smilingly".

Clearly, films like this appeal only to a limited market here in the UK - people sitting in a house preparing to drown will never get ratings like people sitting in a house hoping to win £75,000. The trick is to combine the limited market here with that in Europe, Asia, America and the rest of the world. And, again, it helps not to have a commission. Well, it helps that the copyright is owned by a small production company obsessed with getting the story out and not too bothered about making money.

Take McLibel. Channel 4 made a three-hour drama, which was screened in the UK and that was it. I made a 50 minute documentary, which myself and our distributors, Journeyman Pictures, have plugged endlessly ever since. So far we've managed five national broadcasts, film festivals, cable and cinema screenings in 23 countries, theatrical release in Australia, 1,000s of VHS copies and 100s of free downloads from our website. Just last weekend, five years after completion, it was broadcast by the WorldLink TV satellite network across America. We were paid only $2,000, but by the end of the weekend another three million people had seen it.

Which is all well and good, but not having a commission does have a drawback - sustaining a three year production on fresh air and favours can grind you down till you forget why you're doing it. But then something reminds you. Filming at the dam one day, I asked my interpreter, Jayesh, for his opinion. Brilliant, he replied. It provides water and electricity to millions of people - and it is soooo big. A week later, we visited the laughable resettlement site Luhariya has been offered. Dam still good Jayesh? Yes, but they should rehabilitate the people properly, this isn't fair. Next, the big city slums, home to most of the 16m people displaced by 50 years of Indian dam building. Jayesh? Nothing can justify this. Then the industrialists eagerly awaiting the Narmada water. Jayesh? Wait a minute, they said it was for the poor people. And finally a village in the drought area that uses simple water-saving and collecting techniques and is now self-sufficient. Jayesh? OK, we can solve our water problems without causing mass destruction.

Jayesh's change of heart beautifully reminded me what the point of all this is. Lay out a well-reasoned argument in front of a thinking person and you might change their mind. Change enough people's minds and you might change the world. Unfashionable, I know, but I just can't stop believing in documentaries.

Drowned Out premiered at the Curzon Soho, London W1 (0871 8710022) on Wednesday, followed by a Q&A session with Franny Armstrong and others. For further information, visit www.spannerfilms.net.