Illegal increase of Sardar Sarovar Dam to 100m: violation of fundamental rights, SC ruling

On May 14th 2003, the Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) subgroup of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) gave its “conditional recommendation” to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from its present height of 95m to 100m (The Hindu, May 14, 2003). This “conditional recommendation” by the subgroup and the subsequent approval by the full NCA occurred on May 15th (The Hindu, May 15, 2003) in the face of abundant evidence that the most basic requirements of fair and just resettlement and rehabilitation of affected populations have not been met even at the current dam height of 95m. This is borne out by both state sponsored studies such as the Justice Daud Committee report on condition of oustees in the state of Maharashtra and the subsequent Joint-Task Force commissioned by Maharashtra; and those by independent and respected international groups such as the Housing and Land Rights Network of Habitat International Coalition. For example, studies by the joint task force in October 2002 at the current height of the dam (95m) found that more than 3600 families remained to be rehabilitated (about 3100 families remained near the river and 500 families had shifted to resettlement sites but had not been granted land). This figure for Maharashtra alone implies tens of thousands of people are yet to be resettled and the dam even at its current height is in violation of the law. The condition of the affected people in Madhya Pradesh is worse - a large majority of the 35,000 oustee families are yet to receive rehabilitation. The MP government has openly declared that there is no land available for the oustees and is giving cash compensation, in violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) guidelines, which the Supreme Court upheld in 2000. At least 1500 families in Maharashtra and 12000 families in MP face submergence this monsoon due to the illegal increase in dam height without adequate rehabilitation.

As per the Supreme Court judgment and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Awards, resettlement must precede submergence by at least six months. The arrival of the monsoon in the next month or two would jeopardize their lives and livelihoods.An overwhelming majority of project-affected persons are indigenous tribes (adivasis) The serious problems with resettlement and rehabilitation are in violation of adivasi rights protected under the Indian Constitution and international conventions.

The state administrations are in continued breach of faith of their citizens. On April 24th 2003, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde in a meeting with affected persons recognized that several of them had not been resettled and assured them that the state would not permit an increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam until full resettlement and rehabilitation has occurred in the state. Shinde's promise has turned out to be worthless.

The move by the Narmada Control Authority was timed precisely to subvert the authority of the Supreme Court  The NCA meetings began soon after the Supreme Court went into an extended summer recess from May 12 until July, thereby making it difficult for the aggrieved people to approach the Court for justice.

It happened last May as well !

Exactly one year ago in May 2002, the NCA had ordered an increase of the dam height from 90 m to 95 m. The displaced people of the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Save Narmada Movement went in front of the Supreme Court’s two-judge vacation bench.  The two judges could not come to a consensus on staying the dam construction and at the end of May referred it to a new vacation bench that would sit in the month of June!  Meanwhile the dam was raised to 95 metres.  The submergence that ensued in the monsoon months of July, August and September swept away several houses, flooded many fields and put thousands of families in danger in the remote hills of the Narmada valley. The Maharshtra state government admitted to submergence without rehabilitation and agreed for a Rs 35 lakh compensation for the immediate short-term crop loss and damage. The families in the valley are still awaiting their rightful land-for land rehabilitation.

Domkhedi submergence (August 2002)
Medha and others in satygaraha (Sep 2002)
satyagraha in Jalsindhi (August 2002)

Narmada water in Kutch

The arrival of Narmada water in Kutch has been announced recently in the media with fanfare by the Gujarat Government (The Hindu, May 18, 2003). However, as in Rajkot and Ahmedabad, where Narmada water was brought in just before the elections, this will do little to alleviate the chronic water problem there. Furthermore, this is just the drinking water component of the promised Narmada waters. The irrigation water for 37,000 hectares of cultivable land in Kutch still remains a mirage. Of the proposed irrigation of 18 lakh hectares from the project, only 1.6% of the total cultivable land in Kutch (37,000 ha.) and 9.2% land of Saurashtra would get water from the Sardar Sarovar Project.


1. Report of the Maharashtra Government’s Justice Daud Committee

2. Final report of Habitat International Coalition's fact finding team to the Narmada valley (SSP and Maan dams) September 2002 (PDF file in four parts)

3. A note on rehabilitation status as of Feb 2002 prepared by the Narmada Bachao Andolan

4. The Supreme Court ruling of October 2000

5. The Maharashtra Government Task Force Report (translation)

Press Releases

A Note on Raising the Sardar Sarovar Dam to 100 Metres
NBA Press Release, May 22 2003

Madhya Pradesh Govt. Bent Upon Destroying Peasants and Tribals in Connivance with Modi. Battle for Life in Narmada Valley before the Electoral Battle  
NBA Press Release, May 20 2003                                                 

Indian Dam Decision Threatens Indigenous People; Supreme Court Orders Ignored
FORN/AID/IRN Press Release May 14, 2003

Increase in SSP Height - A Corrupt Politics : Digvijay, Shinde Submit to Modi’s Wiles                    
NBA Press Release, May 14 2003

Press Clippings

`Conditional' recommendation to raise Narmada dam height
The Hindu. May 14, 2003
Clearance for raising Narmada dam height
The Hindu. May 15, 2003

Work resumes at Sardar Sarovar dam
The Hindu. May 16, 2003

Editorial: Violating the spirit
The Hindu. May 18, 2003

Modi releases Narmada water to Kutch District
The Hindu. May 18, 2003