Narmada Samachar: 7 May 2001

Headlines


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SSP related news

Work on Maliya canal inaugurated ; Times of India - April 27, 2001


Contempt case against Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar, and Arundhati Roy

Matter of contempt ; Editorial; Hindustan Times - April 25, 2001
Anti-NBA petitioners goof up own versions ; Tehelka.com - April 23, 2001
Oddball SC adjournment of contempt of court hearing against NBA ; Tehelka.com - April 23, 2001
For the first time in the history of the Supreme Court,
a hearing was held without visitors. The proceeding of
the J R Parashar & Others versus Prashant Bhushan
& Others case lasted barely a few minutes and was adjourned 
till August 7. Visitors and members of the press were banned 
from attending the hearing and, at times, physically 
restrained by the security, reports Shamya Dasgupta 


Man dam issue

Trouble over Man ; Lyla Bavadam; Frontline, Issued dated April 28 - May 11, 2001 - April 28, 2001


Water issue

Midsummer's nightmare ; Editorial; Indian Express - May 4, 2001
....
The story is similar across the state's border. Gujarat's
chief minister Keshubhai Patel, although he had himself
photographed bursting crackers over last November's Supreme Court
verdict giving the go-ahead for the Narmada dam, seems to be
supremely unconcerned about whether any water, forget the
Narmada waters, is reaching the Saurashtra hinterland.
According to reports, 45 of the 50 main check dams in Amreli,
Saurashtra's worst affected district, have gone dry and
water comes by for some 15 minutes a week. Again, this is
not a sudden development. It is for the third consecutive
year that drought has had this region in its grip. One more year
of failed rains could well mean the wiping out of a once
prosperous community. Indeed, one resident of Amreli put it
starkly to this newspaper, "We cannot survive another drought year."
The hopelessness the statement encapsulates is a reflection
of people's lack of faith in their administrators.
....
For Rajkot women, life's a succession of queues ; Indian Express - April 26, 2001
Greening of a desert ; Deccan Herald - April 29, 2001


Other news

Displaced and deprived ; Kuldip Nayar; The Hindu - April 30, 2001
NBA is a battle for justice: Medha Patkar ; Deccan Herald - May 6, 2001
Medha Patkar presented Basavasri award ; Deccan Herald - May 6, 2001
Basavashree Award for Medha Patkar ; The Hindu - April 29, 2001
French award conferred on Arundhati Roy ; The Hindu - April 27, 2001
Petition filed against WB aid for dams ; Times of India - April 25, 2001
[Bhakra] Dam oustees being given plots: CM ; The Tribune - April 26, 2001
Going global, staying local ; The Hindu - April 27, 2001
I, Good Globalisation? ; Tehelka.com - April 27, 2001


Tehri Dam

Authorities hopeful of solution to Tehri tangle ; Deccan Herald - May 5, 2001
With the release of eminent environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna and
other activists, authorities are hopeful of early settlement of the
Tehri Dam oustees.  "We are hopeful that a final settlement with the
Tehri Dam oustees would soon be reached as most of their demands have
been accepted," Tehri District Magistrate Radha Raturi told PTI.

Meanwhile, Uttaranchal Power Minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari said he
was "hopeful of a final settlement of the demands of the oustees".
While the displaced persons are demanding adequate compensation,
Mr Bahuguna is seeking lowering of the dam height as a "safequard against
any type of disaster".

Mr Bahuguna, who was released last night after two days of negotiations
between Mr Koshiyari and representatives of the dam oustees, left for
New Delhi to attend a meeting of the 11-member high-powered committee
on the Tehri dam slated for tomorrow.

The committee, under the chairmanship of Human Resource Development
Minister M M Joshi, is meeting for the fourth time. 
Appeal on Tehri Dam ; Hindustan Times - May 3, 2001
It's deja vu time for Tehri dam residents ; Deccan Herald - May 2, 2001
Eco-activism taking its toll on Tehri project: Officials ; Hindustan Times - April 30, 2001
'Reduce height of Tehri dam' ; Hindustan Times - April 30, 2001
A people damned ; Deccan Herald - April 29, 2001
Damming the protests ; The Hindu - April 29, 2001
Bahuguna continues fast, terms arrest illegal ; Times of India - April 27, 2001
If the dam cracks ; Letters to the Editor ; Hindustan Times - April 26, 2001
10 more anti-Tehri activists held ; Times of India - April 26, 2001
Bahuguna continues fast, terms arrest illegal ; Rediff.com - April 26, 2001
Work on Tehri dam resumes; Bahuguna, others held ; Times of India - April 25, 2001
Bahuguna arrested, on indefinite fast ; Indian Express - April 25, 2001
Dam - a temporary solution ; Interview with Sunderlal Bahuguna; Deccan Herald - April 29, 2001
      Subodh Ghildiyal of Sunday Spotlight spoke to Suderlal Bahuguna on
                        the Tehri dam controversy.

IT'S a hillock that is buzzing with activity. Khakhi-clad rifle-toting
cops, screaming official cars. Inside sits the man inimical to government
interests. None should meet him, not even his son. Only after a day-long
pestering does the district magistrate relent. ''But no cameras'' is the
firm order. The last of the Gandhians, Sunderlal Bahuguna, may be a sage
but his face on screen or his words in newspapers is not good for law and
order. A winding staircase takes you to the much sought-after PWD guest
house in Narendra Nagar where the most wanted man sits. But the activity
kicked off by his detention ends at the doorstep. Inside, Bahuguna is calm
personified. ''Am I so dangerous,'' laughs the man with no sign of black
either on his head or his chin.  Anti-dam to the core of his heart,
Bahuguna regrets that a temporary solution for perennial problems will
efface a culture. He gives little importance to the talks with the power
secretary who was sent specially to dissuade him from going on his fast
and to leave the anti-dam protests. Any assurance from them? ''Oh! they
are just messengers for the government,'' he laughs. Spiritual and
scientific while also threatening, the hero of the Chipko movement bared
his heart to Sunday Spotlight in a free-wheeling interview.

Q: Why are you against the Tehri dam which will put an end to the power
and water woes of a large section of the people?

A: The dam is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. The age of a
dam is limited. While they say it will last 100 years, Prof Waldia, the
best Himalayan expert, puts it to 30 years. Why should they create so much
ruckus for such a short period. They will be uprooting a culture, killing
a river and even reducing the natives to beggars besides playing with a
disaster that has the potential to wipe out the entire western UP.

Q: But seismologists say the dam is safe?

A: I have no reason to doubt their expertise. But they are missing the
point. They may construct a dam that can withstand any earthquake. But
what about the surrounding hills. I know, the mountains near Mallideol and
Sirai have developed cracks and even slipped. A small tremor may bring
sand crumbling and result in disaster. It happened in Italy in 1960 when
the Vijon Dam stood firm but the hills around came crashing down,
resulting in a tragedy that killed 2400 people.

Q: Do you think the dam will be scrapped when 90 per cent work is
complete?

A: Because of that argument, I say make it a run-of-the-river dam without
any reservoir. The water level should not exceed the tunnels. I assure
you, it will provide a permanent dam. We believe in nature. I have a
proposal where massive afforestation of the catchment area can be done.
For just Rs 5 per tree for three years, we can get one family to plant
2000 trees. That will control the water flow and keep rivers full of water
round-the-year. As for the projects I am telling you, the reservoir will
not fill. Bhagirathi is a glacial river and the glacier is receding.

Q: Only now are you talking of rehabilitation?

A: The Tehri dam is a conspiracy of big forces, a politician-contractor
nexus. The people of Tehri have been betrayed. The environmental clearance
said construction and rehabilitation should proceed simultaneously which
did not happen. Even there the rehabilitation plan is cruel. The oustees
should be settled together on land between Rishikesh and Dehradun. If we
have survived despite so many hardships, its because of our community
life. You can't just uproot people and erase their history and culture.
They should be allowed to exist as a community.

Q: Why have people suddenly resorted to unprecedented steps like blocking
roads and demonstrating which they had not done before?

A: Its a question of their survival. You and I are assured that we have a
house to go back to, to eat and sleep. These poor people are always
worried about the choice between slums and death that the rising dam water
will pose to them. Abdicating its responsibility, the government has left
them at the mercy of contractors. They are bound to protest. Let's see how
many people the police can arrest. Instead of compassion, they are getting
jails.

Q: Now, there are three different reasons for opposition - the people for
want of rehabilitation, the VHP for what they term religious-cultural
reasons while your argument of environmental risk it entails is not cited
by anyone. Can these reasons be reconciled?

A: They are all one. None of the villagers want the dam but not everyone
can leave his everything to oppose a dam. With round-the-clock work on the
dam, the threat of their villages submerging against their wishes looks
like a reality. Its their desperation and fear that makes them talk of
rehabilitation in exchange for the dam. Its a fact that the Bhagirathi
river is 'uttarvahini' only near Mallideol and Uttarkashi. The river will
lose its self-purification quality. Anyone would feel for the river which
is a symbol of our culture. Its our heritage. What you call different
arguments are basically the different threats of a senseless project.

Q: You enjoy a reputation diametrically opposite to that of Ashok Singhal.
Will his protests against the Tehri Darn harm the movement?

A: Any positive step will strengthen the movement. The union government
formed a review committee on the VHP's insistence. Like this, may God give
sense to all politicians to join hands in demanding a scrapping of this
project. Its sad that Tehelka happened at the wrong time. I had met
Vajpayee, Harkishan Singh Surjeet and Sonia Gandhi while Charan Singh's
son Ajit Singh too had sent his emissary for his concern for western UP. I
pleaded with them to debate the issue in Parliament. But for Tehelka,
there would have been a debate on the Tehri dam in Parliament in this
session.

Q: For the first time, courts have intervened to order resumption of work
on the Tehri. Do you agree with the development?

A: I won't comment against courts. They were humble enough to ban the use
of explosives on my plea. But it?s sad that two writs are pending in the
Supreme Court, one praying for scrapping of the project and another for
rehabilitation.

Q: Finally, do you believe the dam work will stop?

A: (laughs) It needs the arrogance of a politician to predict the future
like only God can. As a God's disciple, I can only say that I leave it to
Him to it make the future better for coming generations. Else, they will
curse us, their ancestors.


Feature Article: Tehri Infirma: A Disaster Waiting To Happen - Sunderlal Bahuguna

Times of India - April 27, 2001

HAVE we learnt anything from the Gujarat earthquake? Scientists have
warned of a future earthquake in the Himalayan region. If construction of
the mega Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi still continues, it would be nothing
short of an invitation to disaster. A deputation recently asked Prime
Minister A B Vajpayee to get work on the dam stopped. This is not the
first time such a demand has been made. But all previous efforts have met
with failure.

The dam site was selected in 1949, but the Planning Commission only
cleared it in 1972. The work on diversion tunnels could begin only in
1978, because the local people had been continuously opposing the project.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed a committee under the chairmanship
of S K Roy to study the environmental impact of the proposed dam. The
committee recommended that the project be dropped.

In 1986, an agreement was signed with the USSR to implement a 2,400
megawatt project at Tehri on a turn-key basis, but after some time the
Soviet Union itself dissolved. The project continued - and so did the
people's resistance, despite official high-handedness and cases of
violence.

The dam has been designed to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 7.0 on
the Richter scale. However, in the past 100 years, four major earthquakes
measuring more than 8.0 on the Richter scale have occurred in the adjacent
Himalayan region. Now the Tehri region too may have an 8.5-Richter
intensity earthquake any time. No wonder the Environmental Appraisal
Committee headed by Professor Bhumla remarked in 1990 that ``it would be
irresponsible to clear the Tehri Dam as currently proposed''.

In the event of the dam collapsing, the 42 sq km reservoir would be
emptied in 22 minutes. Rishikesh would be under 260 meters of water in 63
minutes, Haridwar under 232 meters in another 20 minutes. The entire
region up to Bulandshar would be flooded within 12 hours, with water
flowing through Bijnor, Meerut and Hapur. The claim that the dam will be
strong enough to withstand any earthquake is hollow.

The hillocks of Raika on the left bank and the slippery portion of chhar
between Malideval and Serain are very weak and fragile. These hillocks may
fall into the reservoir as soon as it is filled with water. This happened
with the Vijont dam of Italy in 1963. The dam stayed intact, but the
hillock fell into the reservoir and the water overflowed. Within an hour,
2,400 people were washed away. The water of Tehri dam will flow towards
the plains, where people cannot save their lives by climbing upwards, as
happens in the hills.

The only way to avert this disaster and utilise the expenditure incurred
so far in the construction of the dam is to convert it into a
run-of-the-river hydro-electric project. This will generate less power
than the project as it is planned today, but it will be much safer.
Besides, possibilities for more run-of-the-river hydel projects like
Maneri-Bhali in the submergence area of the reservoir may be considered.

There is no increase in the volume of water when impounded into a
reservoir. On the contrary, it decreases as some water is lost due to
seepage into the crevices of the hills and some more due to evaporation.
The natural way to conserve rain-water is to create a dense green cover
with trees, bushes and grasses in the catchment area. This can be seen in
Bhutan in the catchment area of the Chukha river. The ratio between the
winter mean and monsoon peak flow is 1 to 10, while it is 1 to 70 in the
case of the Bhagirathi at Tehri.

According to the builders of the Tehri dam, its life will be 100 years.
But according to Prof K S Valdiya, the word-renowned expert on Himalayan
geology, it will be silted up in 30 years. Prof Valdiya is not a scholar
with bookish knowledge, he has traversed the whole Uttarakhand region on
foot.

There is one forgotten aspect of the Tehri dam debate, which the nation
and the government remember only when there is a threat from China. China
has constructed a motorable road along the Indo-Tibetan border. Its
objective is to rehabilitate the virgin land. In contrast, we have no
Himalayan policy. The elite and the younger people flee to the plains in
search of a better life. It is a universally recognised principle that
hardy citizens are the second line of defence. But in Uttarakhand the
youth have left their aging family members, women and children behind. The
only economy here is the `money-order economy'.

If the youth are to be retained, and the money-order economy ended, we
need to follow a simple formula: ``Dhar ainch pani, dhal par dala, Bijli
banawa khala-khala'' (Lift water to the hill-top, plant trees on slopes
and generate electricity from every rivulet). This will bring stability to
the fragile Himalayan hills. The youth will get employment. The flow of
the rivers will be stabilised.

Often, the implementation of such projects is entrusted to government
departments. The tree plantation programme is implemented by the forest
department. The British were traders and the forest department was created
to grow timber trees. As a result, the natural mixed forests of the
Himalaya, which were the source of prosperity, health and happiness of the
hill people, were converted into timber mines. Conifers - chirpine and
cidar - make the soil acidic and have nominal capacity to conserve water.
Bushes and other tree species do not thrive under them. The forest has
been defined as a community of living things, whose members include small
and big trees of different species, bushes, grasses, roots and tubers,
birds and animals. Moisture is required to grow grasses, bushes, roots and
tubers. Birds need a dense canopy for nesting, which conifers cannot
provide.

The dying Himalayas need to be strengthened by clothing them with trees
and bushes. The ratio between man and land is very favourable in the
Himalayas. There should be a provision to provide land and resources to
each family to plant food (nuts like walnut on a priority basis), fodder
and 200 fibre species. Free saplings and a subsidy of even Rs 5 per family
would go a long way. The hills' pristine greenery would be restored; the
country would get a regular supply of water and the Himalayas would become
an impregnable fort.

In Brief

* A major earthquake could wreck the Tehri dam, causing widespread
devastation

* The dam should be converted into a run-of-the-river hydel project

* An aggressive reforestation effort is needed if the Himalayas are to be
saved