Isn't it true that the SSP will take drinking water to millions of people in the thirsty villages of Gujarat?
No. The facts are as follows:
  • The SSP was never designed to provide drinking water to the villages of this region. This "benefit" was added as a cynical political ploy when the project ran into trouble.

  • The feasibility studies for drinking water supply were only initiated in 1998. Not a single rupee has been allocated from the SSP budget for drinking water.

Isn't the SSP the only way to irrigate the parched, drought-prone regions of Kachchh, Saurashtra and North Gujrat?
This is a falsehood perpetuated by the Government to convince the public that the SSP will be the "lifeline" of Gujarat. The facts are as follows :
  • While the Government of Gujarat spends 85% of its annual irrigation budget on the SSP, its canal system, even according to the Project Authorities' own plans, is designed to irrigate less than 2% of the cultivable land in Kachchh, 9% in Saurashtra, and 20% in North Gujarat. By actually diverting money from more realistic, local solutions for the drought-prone region, the SSP actually makes the problem of drought in Gujarat much worse.

It may not be much, but when will the Narmada waters reach the projected areas of Kachchh and Saurashtra?
Never. For the following reasons:
  • There is 15-17% less water in the Narmada today than was assumed when the SSP was designed. This means that there will be less water in the canals than the planners projected. Who will suffer? Those at the tail end of the canal system (Kachchh and Saurashtra).
  • The SSP depends on regulated releases of water from the proposed Narmada Sagar dam upstream in Madhya Pradesh (MP). In its absence, the irrigated area of SSP will be reduced by 17-30%. Who will suffer? The tail end.
  • The SSP arbitrarily assumes an irrigation efficiency of 60%, when the highest efficiency achieved in India is around 40%. So about half of the projected area will never be irrigated. Which half? The tail end.

There must be some benefits from the project? Who profits?
Cities, rich farmers, industry, politically powerful lobbies, not the people from drought prone areas. (See Map) Before the water can reach Kachchh and Saurashtra, it will have to negotiate-literally-the water-intensive cash-crop growing, politically powerful districts of Vadodara, Kheda, Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and Mehsana. Against their own directives, the authorities have allotted Vadodara city a sizeable quantity of water. Sugar-mills, water-parks, golf-courses, and five-star hotels are already positioning themselves at the head of the canal, and many have already been issued licenses.

Now that the Supreme Court says that the Dam must be built, why doesn't the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) work constructively towards the rehabilitation of displaced people instead of delaying the project?
It is simply not possible (except on paper) to rehabilitate such a vast number of people . That's what the NBA has learnt in the 15 years that it has worked in the Narmada Valley. Since the construction began in 1987, the authorities have not come up with a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, even though the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) requires that rehabilitation arrangements for the entire project be complete before water is impounded in the reservoir.

  • Over 80% of the 200,000 people 'officially' considered Project-affected live in M P. Since construction began in 1987, MP has not provided a single hectare of agricultural land for its oustees. In the Supreme Court the MP Government has declared on oath that it has no land to re-settle the project affected people.
  • The MP Government has no land to rehabilitate 114,000 people displaced by the Bargi dam in 1990, nor the 40,000 people to be displaced by the Maheshwar dam, nor can it resettle the 252 villages that will be submerged by the proposed Narmada Sagar dam.
  • Maharashtra fares no better. Adivasi oustees who collectively lived on 20,000 hectares of land have been resettled on only 4200 hectares of denotified forest land.

But isn't it true that the Government of Gujarat offers one of the best rehabilitation packages in the world?
Only on paper. It has not been able to settle a single village according to the directions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. For example, the Tribunal stresses the importance of preserving the social fabric of Adivasi villages through 'community' rehabilitation. Instead the 19 Adivasi villages displaced in Gujarat have been scattered in 175 different 'sites'. Communities, even families, have been split. Amongst those families not counted as "project affected" are:
  • 950 Adivasi families displaced in order to construct a Project colony at Kevadia
  • 23,500 families who lose their lands to the Narmada canal
  • 8,000 Adivasi families (from 104 villages), to be displaced from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary, created to "mitigate" the submergence of 13,000 hectares of forest land
  • families who are being displaced by 'compensatory afforestation' and 'catchment area treatment' schemes. Their numbers have not even been officially estimated
  • 10,000 fisher families who live downstream of the Dam whose livelihoods will be destroyed when the project is completed.

Surely the Supreme Court took all these factors into consideration before allowing the construction of the Dam to continue?
The short, unfortunate answer to this is: no, it did not. Justice Bharucha in his dissenting, minority judgement lays out the evidence produced before the court, and clearly says that when the Project was given conditional clearance in 1987, no environmental impact studies, or assessment of rehabilitation had been done. Today, 13 years later, none of the conditions of clearance have been fulfilled: there has been no comprehensive assessment of the various impacts of the project. There isn't even a rehabilitation master plan. Justice Bharucha has said categorically that construction ought to be stopped immediately, and the project subjected to a comprehensive review. However, the majority, and therefore, operative judgement, dismissed the issue of a comprehensive impact assessment as an "administrative detail" and permitted the construction to continue in accordance with the guidelines laid out by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. This despite the fact that:
  • the Tribunal Award has been consistently violated for 13 years
  • not a single village has been resettled according to the directives of the Tribunal
  • the M.P. Government has stated on oath that it has no land to resettle 'oustees'
  • even families displaced by the dam at its current height have not been rehabilitated

The Tribunal clearly states that under no circumstances will anyone's land be submerged before rehabilitation. By permitting further construction at this stage, the Supreme Court has in effect ordered the violation of the Tribunal Award.

The Government says that it has already spent Rs 9000 crores of public money. Can we afford to waste this money?
No, it would not be a waste, because:
  • Expert studies show that the SSP can be restructured to use the current Dam height to carry water directly to Kachchh and Saurashtra, provided there are no diversions along the way.
  • Gujarat can receive its full share of Narmada waters at the present height of the Dam by building de-centralized storage systems in the Command area instead of one large reservoir at the Dam.

The current expenditure is less than a quarter of the total Project cost. To continue with the project would mean throwing good money after bad. Consider:
  • The Independent Review by the World Bank (which subsequently withdrew from the project) had this to say:
    "We think that the Sardar Sarovar Projects as they stand are flawed, that resettlement and rehabilitation of all those displaced by the Projects is not possible? India and the states involved have spent a great deal of money. No one wants to see this money wasted. But we caution that it may be more wasteful to proceed without full knowledge of the human and environmental costs."
  • The money saved by restructuring the project would be several times more than what is needed to fund water harvesting schemes in every single one of the 9,000 drought-prone villages of Gujarat.
  • Restructuring the project now would save 75 to 80% of the oustees from displacement.

This document was prepared by the Free The Narmada Campaign, India.