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
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
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
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
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
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
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
even families displaced by the dam at its current height have not
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.
This document was prepared by the
Free The Narmada Campaign, India.
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
- 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