Narmada Samachar: 25 June 2001
- WCD and Large dam issues
- Rains in Gujarat
- Special issue of New Internationalist magazine, July 2001
- Maan and Maheshwar Projects
- Feature Article: Maheshwar project: Getting to the root of the matter - Sucheta Dalal
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WCD and Large dam issues
National Interest Demands Review of Narmada and All Large Dams ;
Dam and Dialogue ;
.... It is a travesty that the WCD, which, at the time of its inception had unilaterally appointed commissioners without taking the stake holders into confidence, is now calling for debates and discussions on an agenda which is not acceptable. Neither the representatives of the people nor the representatives of a democratically elected government were given a place on the Commission. The interests of the have-nots perhaps do not matter to the WCD. Subsequently, when the ministry of water resources pointed out serious lapses in the `India Country Study', prepared by experts from outside the water resources sector, WCD assured the government that its reservations would be given space in the report. However, the assurance given was overlooked. ....
This refers to the letter `Dam & Dialogue' (June 13). The Union ministry of water resources (MoWR) numerous flip flops over what strategy they will be employing to deal with the World Commission on Dams (WCD) are worth narrating. After the formation of the WCD - through a transparent and participatory process involving all sides of the dam debate - when the commission wanted to hold its first consultation in India, it was promptly sent a welcome message. Then at the last minute, under pressure from the MoWR and Gujarat state government, the Indian government sent a message to WCD saying that they were not welcome. In fact, the then chief minister of Gujarat even said that he would arrest the WCD commissioner if he entered Gujarat. Incidentally, at the South Asia consultation subsequently held in Colombo, India was the only country among all other South Asian countries that went unrepresented. When an independent team of experts was formed by the WCD to study the Indian experience with large dams and a consultation was held at Chennai and Delhi, the MoWR participated and also made certain unsubstantiated remarks. By this time the MoWR had already become a full member of the WCD forum and its representatives also attended the forums meeting and even tried their best to influence the WCD report. ....
Review of Large Dam Centered Water Policy Sought In 'Drought, Dams, Alternative' Conference ;
Rains in Gujarat
GOOD news and Gujarat? The two had parted ways over the last three years after three droughts, an unforgettable earthquake and the Madhavpura Bank scam. The reunion has finally taken place and rain showers have played Cupid: after months, checkdams are full, relief sites are being shut down, dry reservoirs are filling up and sowing has begun in the fields. .... For starters, more than 13,500 checkdams built in the Saurashtra-Kutch region under the Sardar Patel Participatory Water Conservation scheme have been brimming with water after four days of rain. The checkdams now have 1,520 million cubic feet of water in store, which will help in recharging ground water as well as irrigating over 52,000 hectares in drought-hit regions. Last week's downpour also swelled up 175 small and medium dams in the Kutch district as well as reservoirs in the Saurashtra and southern Gujarat. At least 2,600 more checkdams are being built in Saurashtra, to be completed by July end. ....
Pratappura reservoir wall collapses, 30 missing ;
Special issue of New Internationalist magazine, July 2001
Just out: New Internationalist magazine special issue, July 2001 A special issue of New Internationalist on the ongoing crisis in the Narmada Valley is being published to coincide with the start of the 2001 satyagraha by villagers and activists confronting the waters rising behind the Sardar Sarovar and Maan dams during the coming monsoon. This New Internationalist account of the Narmada story is a journey. Inspired by meeting NBA leader Medha Patkar at an international meeting, British writer Maggie Black and artist Lucy Willis went to Narmada to find out why the Sardar Sarovar and other large dams in the Valley have provoked such extraordinary opposition. In people's homes, at village meetings, on boats, trains, verandas and temple steps, they found out why people would rather drown than let these dams be built. They learnt about a kind of destructive injustice and a popular resistance unknown in their own society, and they were amazed, appalled and inspired. This account of the Narmada struggle begins at Bargi dam, whose oustees have been treated with extraordinary official indifference since 1990. It continues downstream to Maheshwar, where S Kumars' attempt to build the first private hydro-electric dam in India is in trouble. Then they go to the dam-site on the Maan tributary, where the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has ordered the violation of his own state policies and 17 tribal villages face submergence without any re-settlement. On to the Sardar Sarovar reservoir and more tribal villages faced with submergence, where people are still being made offers of useless or already occupied land 12 years after re-settlement should have been completed. Finally they visit other communities affected by the SSP - the canal-affected, and those who have been re-settled in Gujarat - and find out what is happening 'at the end of the line'. The Supreme Court judgement in the Narmada case, NBA's international support, alternative water harvesting approaches, and facts about India's love affair with large dams are all covered in the magazine. But Narmada's people, interviewed by Maggie Black with the help of translators, and painted and drawn by Lucy Willis, are the main focus. This issue of New Internationalist provides a platform for some of those ruined in the name of development by destructive grand-slam projects, illustrating what globalisation in the form of an alliance between politicians, contractors, bureaucrats and foreign capital does to people at the margins of society. A limited number of copies of the Narmada issue of NI should be available shortly from NBA office in Baroda. Further information on this issue: firstname.lastname@example.org New Internationalist website: www.newint.org Lucy Willis website: www.lucywillis.f9.co.uk Enquiries about subscriptions: email@example.com Enquiries about subscriptions in N. America: firstname.lastname@example.org Enquiries about subscriptions in Australia: email@example.com Enquiries about subscriptions in New Zealand: firstname.lastname@example.org General enquiries to NI: email@example.com
Maan and Maheshwar Projects
Hundreds of MP tribals to stage protest from July 2 ;
Another Enron in the making
BHEL heading towards disaster with their proposed investments in the Maheshwar Hydro-electric Project in Madhya Pradesh ;
Public money down the drain? ;
INDIA'S leading financial institutions had an uneasy lunch hour on May 31. Some 400 slogan-shouting protesters arrived at the head offices of six financial bodies in South Mumbai. Most of them were project affected people from the banks of the Narmada and members of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. They were there to challenge investments made by these institutions in the Maheshwar hydro-power project on the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh. Their demands were basic - that these institutions be more transparent in their dealings and accountable to the public. "Do not fund the Maheshwar project - the Enron of Madhya Pradesh," said one banner carried by the protesters. "Financial institutions wake up! Don't drown public money" said another banner in Hindi. The protest was directed at the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI), Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI), Unit Trust of India (UTI), State Bank of India (SBI), Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and General Insurance Corporation (GIC). These institutions together form a consortium that is funding the Maheshwar project. This protest opens several possibilities. One, it puts the Narmada Bachao Andolan on a new plane. Two, it serves as an example to millions of small investors whose life savings are in the hands of these financial institutions and now threatened by mismanagement within these bodies. Three, it creates the potential for linking the concerns of project affected people in the Narmada valley with the worries of the urban small investor. Consequently, four, there is a glimmer of hope for a growing variety of public pressure to check corruption and mismanagement in the financial sector. ...... By itself, the NBA's protest may prove feeble. But if the cause of the project affected people can be linked to the anxieties of the small investor, then this combined strength could have a far- reaching impact. These efforts would also benefit from the burgeoning right to information campaign all over India. Yet all this together represents a faint hope for checking corruption and mismanagement in the financial sector - unless large numbers of people actively join such protests. Plus there is a vital role to be played by some individuals, at the core of the financial system, who have the courage to join this fledgling mobilisation against corruption and inefficiency.
Feature Article: Maheshwar project: Getting to the root of the matter - Sucheta Dalal
Rediff on the Net - June 21, 2001
For nearly seven years now, a segment of the Narmada Bachao Andalon has been fighting the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Project in Madhya Pradesh. Shree Maheshwar is an independent power project, conceived along the lines of all the expensive IPPs that followed Enron's Dabhol Power Company. After Enron's project in Maharashtra and Cogentrix's IPP in Karnataka, the Rs 22.54-billion Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Company Ltd is arguably the most controversial power project in the country. In many senses the battle against Maheshwar has been far more difficult than Enron because it does not involve the use of an expensive fuel like naphtha/LNG, nor does it involve a messy fuel like coal. Also, since hydel power is traditionally supposed to be cheaper than other fuels, the activists have faced an uphill task explaining how this project could be more expensive than Enron. But the truth is that the Maheshwar project (which is to be built on the Narmada river at Jalaud, and was handed over to the S Kumar group in 1994), is at least every bit as expensive as all IPPs. Also, like all other IPPs, it is structured in such a way that almost 90 per cent of the funding comes from public finance. Remember Enron's $ 2.9-billion project is touted as the largest foreign direct investment in India although over half the project funds (nearly Rs 60 billion) have either come from Indian financial institutions or have been guaranteed by them. Today, the Madhav Godbole committee report on Enron's project establishes two facts beyond doubt. First, that Indian lenders and financial institutions who have committed over Rs 60 billion to Enron failed to do proper project appraisal and did not apply their minds before committing the money. Enron's power is at least five times more expensive than that produced by the state electricity boards and clearly unacceptable. In fact, several industries -- including the railways -- have pleaded before the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission that they should not be forced to buy power from Enron. It also proves that it was the anti-Enron activists who go the tariff projections right and leads to the conclusion that they should be given a proper hearing in every other project where there is strong local agitation. This is important because, one way or another, it is public funds that are committed to large private (ad)ventures which pass off as greenfield projects and Indian banks, institutions and small investors taking on the risk profile of venture capitalists. In the Maheshwar valley the NBA activists have been battling the Shree Maheshwar project for seven years, but their focus was primarily on the valley where it will displace several farmers and submerge fertile agricultural land, and -- to an extent -- on the foreign lenders and collaborators. They also notched up crucial victories. For instance, a series of US companies which had decided to participate in the project were convinced to withdraw. In 1997, Bechtel Corporation backed out; in 1998 it was PacGen which dropped plans to acquire a 49 per cent stake; in December 2000 Ogden Energy opted out of being a strategic partner. After PacGen's exit, two German power utilities -- VEW Energie and Bayernwerk -- agreed to acquire this 49 per cent minority stake but withdrew in 1999. In fact, the German government also decided not to support the project after a huge debate in Germany and an independent study by its economic and social welfare ministry (the report is posted on a German government Web site dealing with the issue) citing concerns over rehabilitation of project affected persons. Later, Siemens Ag also backed off from its suppliers contract which was to have been backed by the German government guarantee. In January 2001, the Portuguese government turned down an application by ABB Ltd (equipment supplier) for the COSEC guarantee for around Rs 2 billion which was to be counter-guaranteed by IFCI. Stunning as it seems, this stream of withdrawals had no effect whatsoever on the project itself. Every exit led to a quest for a new collaborator and the project itself was unhampered by any paucity of funds. Money is routinely made available to the promoters and at the latest count, they claim to have invested nearly Rs 5 billion in Maheshwar. The project currently has no strategic partner but it is unfazed. For the Maheshwar activists, this resilience of the promoters has been a mystery. It is only after the exposure of Indian lenders to Enron became public knowledge that they realised what is the source of the promoters' strength. Lending by Indian banks and institutions is at the heart of all mega IPP and greenfield projects and until they keep handing over funds in driblets, a project never folds up. A fortnight ago the NBA activists took their protests to the doorsteps of Indian FIs by holding demonstrations at Reserve Bank of India, ICICI, IFCI, Industrial Development Bank of India and the two nationalised insurance majors -- General Insurance Corporation and Life Insurance Corporation. The demonstrations were followed by the presentation of a memorandum to all these institutions urging them to take another look at their decision to fund the project. As always, the institutions' documentation talks tough. In this case, it says that no further funds would be disbursed without a strategic investor being in place, that the promoters will bring back all the capital advances of Rs 1.064 billion with interest given to various agencies who have not been awarded any contract, will appoint a concurrent auditor, and bring in additional funds to meet cost over-run. However, none of these have been complied with, and the NBA has now decided to target the FIs by issuing a show-cause notice through Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan. Among other things, the notice points out that not only have FIs ignored the fact that various collaborators have walked out of Maheshwar, but it does not even have environmental and techno-economic clearance for its latest project cost. Yet, the Indian lenders -- led by IFCI -- have committed to a financial package of Rs 20 billion which is nearly 90 per cent of the project cost of Rs 22.54 billion. Without even going into the issues of rehabilitation, it seems clear that Indian institutions seem to be bending backwards to accommodate Shree Maheshwar - even when they have no resources to do so. There is also the issue of power production. The project has a capacity of 400 MW, but this will depend on the strength of water available in the Narmada river. The activitsts have vehemently contested the company's claims of being able to produce 400 MW of power except in the monsoons. The project cost, which is high to start with, will lead to even higher cost power during the non-monsoon period, they claim. The cost has escalated from Rs 4.65 billion in 1994 to Rs 25.54 billion at latest count in 2001. The moot question is, are Indian FIs incapable of proper project appraisal, or are there other forces at work behind their support to Maheshwar? The exit of so many foreign lenders alone indicates that there is at least need for an independent Godbole-type inquiry. Despite the expensive 'education' provided by Enron, the DPC project is unaffordable. Today, Indian banks and institutions are lobbying hardest on behalf of the US company, in order to protect their money. Fortunately, Maheshwar has not reached that stage, nor has as much money been invested. But the facts presented by the activists make it clear that there is more than reasonable doubt about the viability of the project, even without going into critical issues such as rehabilitation of displaced persons and land available for their resettlement. Clearly, an independent inquiry, by a committee acceptable to all sides needs to assess the cost and viability of the project as well as the promoters' claims about how much has already been spent on it. Until then the project has to be suspended.