Narmada Samachar: 18 June 2001


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Narmada Satyagraha - July 2001

Narmada Satyagraha 2001;
Against Inhuman, Unjust Submergence;
For Justice And Development
Dear Friends, 

Another submergence has been imposed on the Narmada valley in the monsoon
of 2001. This time, it is the most illegal, inhuman and fatal submergence
with the endorsement and encouragement from the Supreme Court of India.
The construction upto 93 meters (with humps) on the Sardar Sarovar Project
(SSP) would destroy the homes, farms, life and natural resources of
anywhere upto 5000 tribal families from the villages of Gujarat,
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It may, depending on the rainfall, almost
wipe out the tribal belt in the SSP affected zone in the Narmada valley.
This time the submergence would extend upto the fertile plains of Nimad,
in M.P.

Like the killings of Adivasis in recent months in Dewas, Koel-Karo and
Kashipur, the submergence in the Narmada valley is one of the worst
homicide of tribals in India.

The government has imposed the submergence and displacement by raising the
height of the dam upto 90 meters plus 3 meters of humps. This was done
with fraudulent means and bypassing the decision of the Rehabilitation and
Environment sub-groups of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) violating the
Supreme Court verdict itself. All the basic issues regarding the dam like
the cost-benefit and displacement-resettlement, environmental, aspects
have remained unanswered and the people have been refusing to leave their
villages. Even the 10% of the reservoir-affected 43700 families have not
been properly resettled and there is no Master Plan of the total
displacement and resettlement. It is now clear that the waters from SSP
are not meant for the drought-affected Kutch and Saurashtra as against the
original plan, Ahmedabad and Baroda cities have received waters lifted
from the reservoir and put into the canal, even after spending Rs. 45000
crores (450 billion) of the nation and 90% of the Gujarat's irrigation
budget - on one single project. Similar to Enron, the projects like the
SSP are the social and economic liability for the nation. Yet, the
power-holders continue with their pernicious 'politics of inevitability',
making the dam inevitable and irreversible to suppress the basic issues
and the people who are raising them. The role of the Supreme Court of
India in this respect has been most sinister, as it has taken away all the
legal and constitutional protections for the tribals and peasants and had
given a license for the government to suppress the rights of the people.

It is in the national interest to stop the work on the dam and review it
in all the aspects. This is the test of the rule of law, Constitution,
democracy and human rights in our country.

The fact remains the same for all the completed and ongoing projects in
the Narmada valley like Bargi, Narmada Sagar, Maheshwar and Man. However,
the government is bent on destroying the Adivasis-peasants and their
organization for the sake of corporate interests. The tendency has
increased with the onslaught of the liberalization, globalization, and
privatization. As the powerholders intend to annihilate not just the
tribals in the Narmada valley, but all the toiling people whose resources
are the capital for the market economy and urban lifestyle. It is the
flawed water policy, centralised management of natural resources and
globalised economy that is to be challenged in solidarity with all
farmers, fishworkers, dalits, adivasis, workers, oppressed, women and all
patriotic citizens. It is the decentalised, employment-generating economic
policies that need to be supported.

The new phase of the struggle the Satyagraha non-violent resistance will
be launched against the dam and inhuman displacement and unjust
development here and all over, from July 5, 2001 at Jalsindhi (Madhya
Pradesh) and Domkhedi (Maharashtra). In Nimad (Madhya Pradesh), Satyagraha
will start at Chhoti Kasaravad (near Badwani), on July 9 near the
residence of Baba Amte. Baba has taken a pledge to be one of the
Satyagrahis, himself. At both places the people will be staying put in
their homes and face the rising waters that may engulf land, houses....
everything alive. Satyagrahis will stake their lives and assert people's
right to life and resources.

From July 10 to 12, senior social activists, prominent people in India
would be holding a protest and solidarity fast in Kasaravad.
Simultaneously, there will be solidarity actions at different places in
India. You must come for the Satyagraha at this juncture, or participate
at the respective places in these actions. The Establishment is bent upon
crushing the struggles of the depressed classes and for them suppressing
the Narmada struggle is important as one more blow to people's movements.
This cannot be allowed and we will have to resist the repression,
injustice, inequality and unsustainable policies and paradigms.

Be a Satyagrahi. Support the people's endeavour to resist the oppression
and fraud on their life. The villagers in the Narmada valley and the
supporters from all over India call unto you to participate in this joint
struggle of us all to protect the rights, resources of the people and for
humane development.

Noorji Padvi, Bawa Mahariya, Dedlibai Vasave, Balibehn Tadvi
Mohan Patidar, Ashish Mandloi, Medha Patkar and all activists of the valley 

July 5, 2001: Satyagraha Launch Domkhedi (Maharashtra),
               Jalsindhi (Madhya Pradesh).
July 9, 2001: Chhoti Kasaravad, near Baba Amte's residence (M.P.)
July 10 - 12: Fast by prominent people in Kasaravad and fast/mass actions
               outside the valley 
Satyagraha of Man dam affected people starts on 2nd July ;
Dear friend, 

This year, the adivasis and farmers of the Narmada valley will experience
massive submergence in several places in the valley ranging from the
Sardar Sarovar and the Narmada Sagar to the area affected by the Man
Project in District Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. The Man Project is one of the
30 large dams being constructed in the Narmada valley. This dam will
inundate the homes and lands of over 5000 adivasis in 17 villages in
District Dhar in Western Madhya Pradesh. This year these thousands of
adivasis and the lands they live on are slated for submergence without any
arrangements for the restoration of livelihoods or provision of
alternative agricultural land.

Since the last four years, the people affected by the Man Project have
waged an intense battle for their rights with the support of the Narmada
Bachao Andolan. It may be noted that their struggle compelled the Madhya
Pradesh government to pass a government order stating that the
rehabilitation of the affected people must precede submergence and that
the affected people must be rehabilitated in the command area of the

However, the Madhya Pradesh government did not rehabilitate any adivasi
family by providing it with agricultural land. On the contrary, the Madhya
Pradesh government began rapid work on the spillway section of the Man dam
since November , 2000, thus increasing the dam wall. Since the past six
months , we, the hundreds of Bhils and Bhilalas affected by this dam have
moved in to a new and intense phase of struggle where we have been on the
streets incessantly trying to stop the destruction that threatens to
engulf us this monsoon. We have demonstrated in Dhar, Indore and Bhopal ,
captured the Man dam site and met officials at all levels. In fact in
February this year, more than 200 adivasis had to stay in jail for around
15 days, because we had dared to ask for rehabilitation and our legal
entitlements. This is a sad commentary on the state of our troubled

In the monsoon that is almost upon us, 5000 adivasis affected by the Man
Project will have to face the rising waters of the Man reservoir which
will inundate hundreds of houses and most of the lands of these 17
villages. We have decided that we will face this unjust and illegal
submergence with courage and determination. We will fight the attempts of
the government to flood us out like rats and will struggle for our right
to resources for life as well as the right to live a life of dignity. We
have decided to begin satyagraha in the first village to be affected by
the Man dam - Khedi- Balwadi , District Dhar from the 2nd of July, 2001.
You have always been part of the joys and sorrow s of the Narmada valley
and in the struggles of its people. We call on you to be part of and
strengthen this our life and death struggle by participating in the

In solidarity, 

Bondri Bai, Chander Singh, Gendalal Mandloi
Alok Agarwal, Jagadeesh, Chittaroopa Palit 

Press Clippings

Medha Patkar calls for people's struggles ; The Hindu - June 14, 2001

SSP related news

Sardar Sarovar Judgment and Human Rights ; P.Cullet; Economic and Political Weekly - Issue dated May 5th, 2001
SSP will be another Enron for Maharashtra: NBA ; Deccan Herald - June 15, 2001
Pro-Narmada organisation launched ; The Hindu - June 17, 2001
AHMEDABAD, JUNE 16. A pro-Narmada dam non-political and non- government
organisation to counter the campaign by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) was
launched in Gujarat under the banner `Narmada Samarthan.' 

The former Narmada Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaynarayan Vyas, has been appointed
its convener with the president of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, Mr. Ratan Prakash Gupta, the president of the Gujarat Chamber
of Agriculture, Mr. Manubhai Patel, the former chairman of the
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Development Corporation, Mr. C.C. Patel, the
former Minister, Mr. Sanat Mehta, and others as its members. 

Talking to presspersons here on Friday, Mr. Vyas, said the organisation
would not try to counter the proposed `Jal Samarpan' agitation by the NBA
from July 5 against the dam project. The Supreme Court judgment in favour
of the NBA might not indicate the end of impediments for implementing
the project. 

He said even though the Centre did not accept the report of the World
Commission on Dams, of which Ms. Patkar and Mr. L.C. Jain were
`unauthorised members' from India, a seminar was organised in Delhi to
denounce the dam project and the apex court's verdict. The Narmada Samarthan,
too, would organise a seminar supporting the project soon. 

The Narmada Samarthan, besides creating public opinion through workshops
and seminars, was also developing a website to inform the international
intelligentsia about the good aspects of the project.
Narmada dam to be completed despite obstacles: Keshubhai ; Indian Express - June 18, 2001

Water issue

The End Of Thirst ; Soma Wadhwa; Outlook - Issue dated June 18th, 2001
The Battle Against Dry Taps ; Outlook - Issue dated June 18th, 2001
Eighth Day Of Creation ; Outlook - Issue dated June 18th, 2001

Other News

Maheshwar Project

Bhel may bail out S Kumars' power project ; Economic Times - June 16, 2001
FIs not to loan IPPs till Enron issue is resolved ; Economic Times - June 4, 2001

Sawalkot Project in Kashmir

Where Angels Fear to Fjord ; Outlook - Issue dated May 21, 2001
$1.6 billiion Sawalkot hydel project; Cloak of secrecy fails to cover up fishy deal ; Kashmir Times - Issue dated May 15, 2001
JAMMU, May 14 : The 600 MW Sawalkote hydel project planned over
river Chenab in militancy infested district Doda is being looked
at with suspicious eyes describing it as a ?political? project
which is going to make money for everyone except Indian financial
institutions. The agreement was signed at New Delhi in a haste
without asking for any bids especially when an agency already
working in Jammu and Kashmir had offered substantially lower prices. 

According to a report published in the May issue of the weekly
magazine Outlook, "many questions pertaining to Sawalkote hydel
project had remained unanswered by either the executing or
funding agencies including the state government as well as the
central government. Many eyebrows were raised on the manner in
which agreement was signed". 

Feature Article: The height of inaccuracy - Ravi Kuchimanchi

The Hindu - June 17, 2001

IT was July 20, 2000. The Narmada was visibly rising, a few inches every
day until it covered the path between Nimghavan and Domkhedi, crossed a
tree and threatened to enter the fields. People prepared for another
showdown with the rising river. So, imagine my surprise when I read the
gauge at Hapeswar after a week and found the water in almost the same
place of about 92 metres. A week passed and another. The water neither
invaded nor retreated in defeat. I started calculating.

The dam was 88m high, about 300m or 400m wide and the over- flowing river
was at 92m. How much water was flowing over? Easy enough - kinetic energy
equals potential energy - we were looking at flows like 10,000 cubic
metres per second ... We thought: at this rate let us see how many days
the Narmada takes to empty itself.

The Narmada carries 23 million acre feet of water every year and we were
less than 40 per cent through a lean monsoon season. Thus at best there
was 15,000 million cubic metres water in it. Draining at 10,000 cubic
metres per second .... the water would get over in just 15 days.

Days passed but the water level did not fall 5 cm. It was the second week
of August and I decided to go to the dam-site to check the water level
there ... is it really 92m? Clearly if the Narmada was flowing so high it
should have all spilled over by now. And so with a flash light, as the
light was fading, on a motor bike past the police check points as we
approached the river, I told myself "it cannot be 92" - the moment of
truth had arrived. It was the time for Satyagraha. There was a government
metre stick half sunk in the river and where it crossed the water, it read
"89.2m" ... not "92.2m".

All of a sudden another thought occurred to me ... it was as if a shadow
were lifted from my eyes ... oh my god the village people were right. They
had a better measuring system than the Government itself. There was nearly
3 metres discrepancy between the Narmada at Hapesar (92m) and the dam
(89.2m). What is more, we had solid proof. Proof that depended on the way
they measure heights compared to the way engineers measured them.

In the past year or two, people told me with certainty that the waters
will enter far more into their villages than the land- acquisition that is
going on. They knew where the flood waters came in 1970 and 1994. "Even
without the dam, the Narmada's waters rose that high. Then with the dam it
will be much more than government figures."

Medha Patkar asked me to carry out an independent survey of levels. I
began to observe this: if in Sikka, Vestha Bhai told me that in 1970 the
flood waters came up to some tree and in Domkhedi if Dedli Behen told me
that it came to some stone, both levels actually tallied when we checked
with the theodolite to within a few centimetres. I began to gain
confidence that the people of the Narmada valley had a very accurate
knowledge of the river. At the Hapeswar temple benchmark that said
105.990m, people from non-government organisations working with the
Government of Gujarat said, "You are cross-checking the heights but this
benchmark here is also the Government's. How do you know that's right?"
They went away laughing, having pondered over the futility of challenging
the Government.

The daggers were drawn at the following positions: All the engineering
knowledge including mine, was to measure heights above mean sea levels
starting from benchmarks. The Narmada villagers, however, measure levels
of the houses from the river or level of the river from their houses and
had internally consistent observations of floods accurate to a few
centimetres. If I started from government bench marks I was just going
around in circles.

So what should I do?

I went to the Narmada Satyagraha.

Waking up to the Narmada everyday, I must have sub-consciously moved from
one system of measurement to another. It suddenly occurred to me that the
river had to be flat - horizontal - because of the dam. Like the water in
a swimming pool or a lake that has the same level everywhere. The Domkhedi
satyagraha was on a 50 km long lake/reservoir created by the dam which was
88m high. Therefore, all I had to do was to measure heights of villages
from the river, like the village people do. There was no need for
benchmarks; in fact they could now be challenged.

We found that the Hapeswar benchmark was only 13.8m above the Narmada
which itself was at 89.2m, as per the metre stick at the dam-site. Which
means the benchmark was at 103m, and not 105.990m as marked. Likewise, the
lowest house in Jalsindhi was at 98.4m, and not at 101.5m as claimed by
NVDA engineers. This explained why waters invaded the Satyagraha at
Jalsindhi in 1999.

In Nimad the dam building engineers working with the CWC predicted, using
the computer where the waters will reach in the worst case of a once in
100-year flood. The NVDA uses this to identify the project affected.

What do the engineers say about floods? "At most 133.95m in Kukra." But
the field office in Rajghat, Kukra, had itself recorded the floods in 1970
at 136.688m, about 3m higher. Moreover, in the last 30 years, the waters
had exceeded these times, the once-in-100-year level that the Government
has calculated. Thus there are serious errors in Government levels of all
the States in the Narmada valley.

What do survey errors mean? Those who will be displaced are not fully
counted. Three metre errors everywhere would mean 20,000 people who will
be affected are left out. The Narmada tribunal stipulates that all those
who will be affected have to be identified and rehabilitated six months
before the building of the dam. Even if the surveys were accurate to the
centimetre, it would mean 60 people not counted, a one millimetre accuracy
will still leave six people out. Such accuracy throughout the Narmada
valley is impossible to achieve using survey instruments which have
intrinsic technical limitations. This shows the project is too big and
internally inconsistent to make tall promises or claims that people
opposing it are scientifically backward and those constructing it are
technologically superior. In fact the civil engineering faculty from our
esteemed universities will agree that the dam is too high and it is
impossible to identify every single affected person six months before
submergence. Leave alone rehabilitate them. Where does this leave the
implementation of the Narmada Tribunal, even in principle?

The facts are even more bleak. The estimate of people who will be
submerged considered by the Narmada Tribunal when it made its final
decision was off by 500 per cent. Had our engineers spent a few months in
the villages consulting people about the floods in 1970 and the geography
of the area, certainly there would have been more accurate estimates. The
dam would have been designed for a much smaller height. Commenting on the
Bargi dam that submerged 162 villages as against an estimated 102
villages, Aravinda once wrote: "Dam builders have not scored high marks in
the Math department".

While we found the survey errors, the Government of Gujarat decided to
repaint the gauges at Hapeswar temple. However, it continues to have the
same errors - only they are more glaring.

Note: Since water is flowing, the backwaters of the Narmada between the
dam and Domkhedi deviate slightly from the horizontal - but this is less
than 1 or 2 cm as the water is flowing very slowly.

* * *

A Nimad villager informed us recently that the engineers have made a +/-3
m stamp. So the Jalsindhi house level will now be 101.500 "+/- 3m"!

Construction began on March 23, 2001 of 3m humps above the 90m dam.

The Narmada Control Authority, admitting that rehabilitation has not been
completed and that there are thousands of families living below 90m with
no alternative land in sight, agreed fo fo for the humps since Gujarat's
engineers said they will be able to keep the waters at 90m levels even if
humps are added. Does the engineers demand make logical sense or the
tribal people's demand - which is stop construction and if need be even
lower the dam height and keep water to a level where rehabilitation is
actually done?

The writer obtained his B.Tech. in Civil Engineering from IIT- Bombay and
Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Maryland, U.S..