Narmada Samachar: 2 April 2001


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Lack of rehabilitation in Man Dam

NBA Press Releases

Eminent writer Arundati Roy and film-maker Jharna Jhaveri visit
affected villages. Independent Fact-finding Committee investigates
rehabilitation process and suspected human rights violations in Man Project.
Chittaroopa Palit and Urmila Patidar still held in jail for the 12th day
NBA Press Release - April 2, 2001

Harassment by the State Administration continues,
Chittaroopa Palit and Urmila Patidar still held in jail for the 11th day
NBA Press Release - March 31, 2001

200 of Man project-affected adivasis who were arrested on 21st March
released unconditionally, 13 activists detained on false charges,
Detailed examination of the rehabilitation process to be done in the
next ten days.
NBA Press Release - March 28, 2001

Man project affected adivasis take out protest rally in Dhar. ;
NBA Press Release - March 26, 2001

Press Clippings

Surprisingly enough, the national media has not covered the Man dam issue at all despite the fact that this has been going on for the past 10 days. The sole opinion piece by Dilip D'Souza on has been enclosed below. Please write to the major national Indian news dailies and ask them to cover the issue.

Up on the Dam ; Dilip D'Souza; Rediff on the Net - March 27, 2001
Now it's not as if the protestors did not expect to be arrested.
Or to be accused of all manner of things. They did. I am not trying
to draw your attention to the injustice of the arrests, nor the
strange charges against these people. In some ways, those things
are mere details, just the sideshow.  What I found myself thinking
about up on that Man dam, and which is why I write this, are a few
random questions.

Like: what drives several hundred people, including children
and women nursing babies, to race pell-mell onto a dam early
one morning and sit there, knowing full well they are going
to be arrested? What makes a young man climb up a crane?
What sends a few dozen of the women running after two dump trucks?
Really, what motivates ordinary rural folks to object to all
those conventional notions of "progress" and "development",
to confront the might of the state in doing so? Would you do the same?

Narmada Sangarsh Parikrama

Narmada valley gets ready for the Parikrama. Not just a program, but
propagation of Narmada vision. Begins from April 4th
NBA Press Release - April 2, 2001

Narmada Sangharsh Parikrama in Nimad villages from April 4.
People to continue struggle for right to life, expose falsity of SC verdict.
NBA Press Release - March 30, 2001

Water Scarcity in Gujarat

Narmada water to reach Gondal today ; Times of India - April 1, 2001
Demonstrators caned in Palitana ; Times of India - March 31, 2001
No water, yet civic body claims it simply flows ; Indian Express - March 30, 2001
Saurashtra, North Gujarat face severe drought ; Indian Express - March 29, 2001
A'bad may not get Narmada water twice a day ; Times of India - March 29, 2001
Water crisis in Saurashtra ; Times of India - March 29, 2001
Narmada brings some relief to city ; Indian Express - March 28, 2001
Demand for water puts Government in a tight spot ; Times of India - March 28, 2001
The Central Gujarat's industrial belt demands nearly one-third
of water being pumped out of Narmada, putting the state government
in a fix.

"We have no other go but to supply Narmada water to the
Vadodara-based plants if the state's economy has to survive",
a senior bureaucrat has revealed. Of the 1,000 cusecs pumped out
from the Narmada dam by 55-odd pumps, nearly 350 cusecs is just "lost"
due to evaporation and seepage by the time the water reaches the
Mahi crossing about 150 km away via the Narmada canal. Of the
650 cusecs left to be used, the Pariej lake gets 200 cusecs for
the Saurashtra pipelines, and another 200 cusecs is transferred
for Ahmedabad and Vadodara. 

Of the remaining 250 cusecs, plans were to transfer about 200 cusecs
to Central Gujarat tanks so that the area does not suffer from
water problem. But with 200 cusecs being demanded by Vadodara's
industrial belt and industries of the nearby areas, and another 100
cusecs by the GEB's Wanakbori plant, the strain is very much visible.
"One solution is to increase the pumping capacity to 1,500 cusecs,
so that surplus waters are available both for industry and irrigation",
the bureaucrat said. A policy decision would, however, have to be taken.
Narmada water demanded for Jamkandorana ; Times of India - March 28, 2001
Amid much fanfare, Narmada reaches Rajkot ; Indian Express - March 26, 2001
Narmada water reaches Rajkot ; Times of India - March 26, 2001

The fight against Tehri Dam

In the past editions of Narmada Samachar, we have been enclosing news clippings relating to the Tehri dam and the VHP's (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) opposition to the dam on religious grounds. As we stressed earlier, there are real social and environmental reasons to oppose the Tehri Dam and these should not be forgotten in the melee that the VHP has created.

As the news below show, the BJP national government has given in to VHP's demands and has asked the work on the dam to stop till a review is done chaired by Murli Manohar Joshi.

This episode should be contrasted with the treatment meted out to the struggles in the Narmada Valley and the belligerent pronouncements by Lal Krishna Advani. Please write to the Government folks as well as to newspapers comparing and highlighting this issue.

Joshi to chair panel on Tehri ; Times of India - April 1, 2001
Centre bows to VHP threat, stops work on Tehri ; Times of India - March 31, 2001
VHP gets Tehri work stopped ; Economic Times - March 31, 2001
Tehri project -- VHP joins protests ; Indian Express - March 31, 2001
Uttaranchal initiates talks with Singhal over Tehri dam ; Deccan Herald - March 29, 2001
BJP in a fix over VHP's anti-Tehri stand ; Times of India - March 28, 2001
Work on Tehri dam will continue: Swami ; Times of India - March 27, 2001
RSS joins VHP on Tehri issue ; Deccan Herald - March 27, 2001
Tehri dam runs into fresh trouble ; Times of India - March 26, 2001

Other News

Medha Patkar relents on dam issue ; The Hindu - March 27, 2001
NHDC debt-equity ratio likely to be altered ; Economic Times - March 30, 2001
THE GOVERNMENT has proposed altering the debt-equity ratio of joint
venture company Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation and
the creation of a new company to execute the mega hydel project. 

This project has been hanging fire for several years and the government
has proposed these changes to give a new boost to the hydel policy. 

Another outrageous scheme of the Gujarat Govt.

$10-m aid gives much-needed fillip ; Times of India - March 29, 2001
VADODARA: The Kalpasar project, Gujarat's dream project to turn
Gulf of Khambhat into a huge fresh water lake, received a major fillip
with the Netherlands-based Nadeco Company committing $10 million
(about Rs 46 crore) in aid.
He said Kalpasar envisages bridging the Gulf of Khambhat with a
24-km-long dam that will connect Bharuch and Bhavnagar. Besides
providing drinking and irrigation water to the entire Saurashtra and Kutch,
Kalpasar will generate 6000 mega watts of power, Kane said. 

"Saline water will be replaced by fresh water. About 400,000
hectares of land that is of no use today will be reclaimed.
This fresh water lake than will have fantastic harbours and
flourishing fisheries," Kane said. 
"Even if Narmada dam is built to the height of 138 metres, 90 percent
of Saurashtra and 95 per cent of Kutch would not get water. Kalpasar
is a feasible alternative and in five years can change the face of
Saurashtra and Kutch," Kane said. 

Feature Article: The power crisis and a paradigm crisis - WALDEN BELLO

Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 06 - Mar. 17 - 30, 2001

After having been taken for a ride by the ideology of centralised
electrification, people are now being taken on another, equally
dangerous spin by the ideology of privatisation.

IN many developing nations today, state-owned centralised power
systems are mired in mismanagement, corruption and debt. And in
country after country, influential multilateral agencies such as the
Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank have come up with a
cure-all: privatisation and deregulation. This is the case in India,
Thailand, and the Philippines.

Yet the state ownership versus privatisation debate obscures the
complexities of the crisis of power generation and delivery in the
Third World. For what is behind the troubles of giant agencies such as
the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (E gat) and the
National Power Corporation (Napocor) in the Philippines is not the
natural inefficiency of state-managed enterprises but the crisis of
the paradigm that underpins them: centralised electrification.

Centralised technologies are inextricably linked with the politics of
domination of countries by central elites - by technocrats, urban
elites and local and foreign big business. Behind the crisis of these
technologies is the unravelling of a longtime de velopmentalist
alliance among technocrats, multilateral agencies and private
corporations dedicated to foisting devastating technologies on
developing nations in the name of a vision of modernity and the search
for profitability. The power industry, in p articular, illustrates
this destructive symbiosis of modernity and profitability.

One of the earliest expressions of the sense that generation and
distribution of power was a central test of modernity was made by
Lenin in 1921, when he defined socialism as Soviet Power plus
Electricity. But it was not only Leninists who equated electr ic power
with the desirable society. Jawaharlal Nehru, the dominant figure in
post-Second World War India, called dams the temples of modern India,
a statement that, as author Arundhati Roy points out, has made its way
into primary school textbooks in ev ery Indian language. Big dams have
become an article of faith inextricably linked with nationalism. To
question their utility amounts almost to sedition.

THE technological blueprint for power development for the post-Second
World War period was that of creating a limited number of power
generators - giant dams, coal or oil-powered plants, or nuclear plants
- at strategic points which would generate electr icity that would be
distributed to every nook and cranny of the country. Traditional or
local sources of power that allowed some degree of self-sufficiency
were considered backward. If you were not hooked up to a central grid,
you were backward. Centrali sed electrification with its big dams, big
plants and big nukes became the rage. Indeed, there was an almost
religious fervour about this vision among technocrats who defined
their life's work as missionary electrification or the connection of
the most d istant village to the central grid.

It was, it must be noted, a grand mission that was supported in India,
Thailand, South Vietnam and the Philippines by millions of dollars
worth of grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID). Not surprisingly, this generosity was no t unconnected to the
less than salutary mission of pacifying rural areas permeable to
communist agitation.

In any event, in the name of missionary electrification, India's
technocrats, Arundati Roy observes in her brilliant essay, 'The Cost
of Living' (Frontline, February 18, 2000), not only built new dams and
irrigation schemes but also took control o f small, traditional
water-harvesting systems that had been managed for thousands of years
and allowed them to atrophy. Here Roy expresses an essential truth:
that centralised electrification preempted the development of
alternative power systems that co uld have been more decentralised,
more people-oriented, more environmentally benign, and less capital

Centralised electrification, like every ideology, served certain
interests, and these were definitely not those of the ordinary
masses. The key interest groups were:

* key bilateral and multilateral development agencies. In Asia, the
World Bank and the ADB became the biggest funders of centralised power
technologies for export to Third World countries while USAID supported
rural electrification. Centralised power dev elopment provided a grand
rationale for the existence and expansion of these institutions into
giant bureaucracies;

* big multinational contractors like Bechtel or Enron, which made
tremendous profits building dams or providing power consulting

* exporters of power plants, including nuclear plants, like General
Electric and Westinghouse, whose costs were subsidised by government
export agencies like the U.S.  Eximbank, with the taxes of citizens in
the developed countries;

* powerful local coalitions of power technocrats, big business and
urban-industrial elites.  Despite the rhetoric about rural
electrification, centralised electrification was essentially biased
toward the city and industry. Essentially, especially in the case of
dams, it involved expending the natural capital of the countryside and
the forests to subsidise the growth urban-based industry. Industry was
the future. Industry was what really added value.  Industry was
synonymous with national power. Agricultu re was the past.

Aside from being an element in counterinsurgency programmes, rural
electrification was simply a small concession to the countryside to
pacify opposition to city-oriented centralised electrification. Large
multipurpose dams that allegedly provided countri es simultaneously
with the benefits of power and irrigation were concerned first and
foremost with power for the urban sector.

While these interests benefited, others paid the costs. Specifically,
it was the rural areas and the environment that absorbed the costs of
centralised electrification. Tremendous crimes have been committed in
the name of power generation and irrigation, says Arundhati Roy, but
these were hidden because governments never recorded these costs.

In Thailand, for instance, the government has no records on how many
communities and rural peoples have been displaced by the score of
massive hydroelectric and irrigation dams built since the 1950s. Very
few have been paid compensation. Communities relo cated, vanished, or
were simply absorbed into urban slums. In India, Roy calculates that
large dams have displaced about 33 million people in the last 50
years, about 60 per cent of them being either untouchables or
indigenous peoples. As in the case of Thailand, India, in fact, does
not have a national resettlement policy for those displaced by
dams. Neither does the Philippines.

The costs to the environment have been tremendous: in Thailand,
hundreds of thousands of hectares of primal forest land was submerged,
rivers changed course, fishing as a livelihood atrophied among
riverine communities, and many species of fish vanished. In India, Roy
points out, the evidence against Big Dams is mounting alarmingly -
irrigation disasters, dam-induced floods, the fact that there are more
drought prone and flood prone areas today than there were in 1947. The
fact that not a single river i n the plains has potable water.

YET what benefits have 50 years or so of centralised electrification
really brought?

After imposing such high human and ecological costs, the amount of
power generated by the controversial Pak Mun Dam in northeastern
Thailand can barely supply the daily electricity needs of a handful of
shopping malls in Bangkok. And in India, 22 per cen t of the power
generated is lost in transmission and system inefficiencies. The
proportion for the Philippines is at least 25 per cent, which is
probably the standard for developing countries. In the Philippines,
after 50 years of massive electrification , over 30 per cent of rural
households have no access to electricity. In India, some 70 per cent
have no access to electricity.

Yet, this is not surprising, since centralised electrification was
never really meant principally to deliver affordable power to people
in an effective way. What it really meant to deliver was different:

* First of all, centralised electrification was geared to deliver a
vision of modernity to satisfy the ambitions of technocrats and
authoritarian elite leaders like Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines,
who identified his power with the power that was to be delivered by
the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

* It sought to deliver taxpayer-subsidised profits for multinational
and local dam contractors and the builders of power plants like the
ubiquitous Bechtel.

* Centralised electrification sought provided a rationale for the
maintenance and expansion of giant multilateral bureaucracies like the
ADB and the World Bank.

* Centralised electrification did not aim to provide a programme of
coherent, balanced development but triggered a process of
destabilising, lopsided, urban-oriented hyperdevelopment which would
leave most of the countryside behind as national resources were
focussed on building a manufacturing and industrial sector in the
manner of the West.

TODAY, these systems of centralised electrification run by governments
have become terribly expensive to maintain. Now the International
Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the ADB want governments to
privatise and deregulate these systems. While governmen ts had to keep
electricity prices controlled in order to justify the existence of
expensive generation, transmission and distribution facilities, the
private sector will be expected to raise prices and streamline
services - meaning that it will simply el iminate from the rolls of
consumers those who cannot pay. After having been taken for a ride by
the ideology of centralised electrification, people will now be taken
on another, equally dangerous spin by the ideology of privatisation -
by propaganda abou t the greater efficiency of the private delivery of
essential services.

Not surprisingly, it is the consumer, both rural and urban, who will
foot the costs of the transition, for the private sector corporations
- many of them transnational firms such as Enron and KEPCO - will not
be pushed to absorb the full costs of these c apital-intensive systems
purchased with massive loans by governments. In the Philippines,
consumers will subsidise the sale of the National Power Corporation to
the private sector by paying a tax designed to collect $10 billion in
stranded costs.

In country after country today, the physical assets of centralised
systems are being divided up among private firms. But this is not
among many small and medium firms, which would at least be consistent
with the philosophy of free enterprise espoused by the proponents of
deregulation. No, the model for the Third World is the system of power
deregulation that California initiated in the early 1990s. For we are
now told by technocrats and big business that the economies of scale
dictate that the power fac ilities should go to a few, so-called
efficient generators of energy. Thus, the dream of big centralised
power that so many of our technocrats associated with national power
has had, has turned out to be a bad dream. It has turned out to be
simply a phas e in the delivery of electric power to the hands of
private monopolies, many of them foreign transnationals. And with the
botched California deregulation as a model, it need hardly be stated
that we are likely to be headed for a much bigger economic disa ster
than the crisis of state-run centralised power systems.

People are, however, underestimated. For throughout the Third World at
this point, in places like the Narmada valley in India, in Pak Mun in
Thailand, people are actively engaged in struggles against the
implementation of centralised technologies bent on delivering the
illusion but not the reality of national progress. These struggles in
the distant countryside are beginning to wake up the supposed urban
beneficiaries of centralised electrification to the reality that this
obsolete and flawed paradigm o f national advance is actually turning
out to be phase in the delivery of horribly expensive national assets,
at their expense, to the hands of private monopolies, such as the
giant power distributor Meralco in the Philippines, a corporation that
is the quintessential representative of the incestuous union of
electricity, monopoly and super-profitability.

People, in short, are increasingly aware that the struggle for
community, for independence, for the future, is now inextricably
linked to the struggle against bad centralised technologies that
simply promote domination, dependence, and dissolution.