Displacement, Submergence and Rehabilitation

in Sardar Sarovar Project: Ground Reality indicating utter injustice

What the Tribunal directed:

The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award has a number of landmark features as far as the directions for resettlement and rehabilitation go. It must be acknowledged that these directives of the NWDTA about the entitlements and linkages reflected its keen concern for, and, clarity about how livelihoods must be restored to the affected people and how they can not be and must not be simply flooded out. These directives accord and respect the affected people’s right to life, livelihood and dignity. This is despite the fact that the NWDTA substantially underestimated the numbers of people to be affected because of lack of proper information supplied by the governments, as well as did not apply its mind fully to all categories of affected people apart from land holders and their adult sons, and thus did not comprehend the full magnitude of the rehabilitation task.

The specific nature of the R&R entitlements seem clearly based on an analysis of the miserable performance of the R&R and the traumatic experience of the oustees of such projects till then. The significant improvements over the then current practices included the following:

Regarding entitlements the Tribunal ruled that:

Regarding linkages between submergence, displacement and rehabilitation the NWDTA ruled that:

Firstly irrigable lands must be made available for the rehabilitation one year in advance. [NWDTA XI IV (2)(iv)], and

Secondly that “in no event should any areas of M.P. and Maharashtra be submerged unless all arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of the oustees and intimated to them”. [NWDTA XI IV (6)(ii)].

In Writ Petition No. 1201 of 1990 B.D.Sharma vs. Union of India and Ors., the Supreme Court has ruled that rehabilitation has to be completed six months prior to submergence in all respects.

What the ground reality is:

No master plan:

Till date there is no Master Plan ready when it was required to be ready by 1981. The Ministry of Environment and Forests in their conditional clearance to the project in 1987 and the Five Member Group in their reports in 1994-1995 pointed this out. The so-called plan prepared by the authorities is no master plan for many reasons. First of all, it has no mention of the total number of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. The project will affect atleast 10 lakh people due to reservoir, colony, canal, sanctuary, compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment, downstream fisher people, etc. The authorities were expected to survey exactly how many families are affected by this project, then notify category-specific R&R policies. Further the action plans detailing the R&R process schedule, including identification and acquisition of irrigable, agricultural land, setting up of “rehabilitation villages”, etc. should have been prepared too. Hence it does not estimate exactly how much of land and other resources would be required to resettle this large number of PAFs. This, however, was not done. Looking at the magnitude of rehabilitation required, this task seems more than impossible.

The total number of families to be affected:

In Gujarat

Colony affected

950 PAFs in 6 villages

Submergence affected

4600 PAFs in 19 villages

Canal affected

1,69,493 PAFs owning land titles out of these 24,000 will lose either whole or major chunk of their land holding and become landless or marginal farmers.

Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary affected

38,000 PAPs in 104 villages

Downstream affected

10,000 PAFs making their livelihood fishing in the 150 kms stretch of river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam

Drainage affected

Large areas will be required for drainage. Just for the main drains in Zones 4-13 it is estimated that 18,000 hectares of land will have to be acquired and those losing land will have to be compensated. (Estimates for other areas not available)

Compensatory afforestation / Catchment area treatment

There is no estimate for the number of families being affected by these environmental protective measures. (approximately 3000-5000 tribal families)

Secondary displacement due to loss of lands to resettlement sites

There is no estimate for the number of families being affected due to this.

(Note: PAF: Project Affected Family. PAP: Project Affected Person.)

In Madhya Pradesh:

Submergence affected

33014 PAFs in 193 villages (Balance as on today – 30,000 +)

Compensatory afforestation / Catchment area treatment

There is no estimate for the number of families being affected by these environmental protective measures. (approximately 3000-5000 tribal families)

Secondary displacement due to loss of lands to resettlement sites

There is no estimate for the number of families being affected due to this. In a number of cases it has been seen that land is being acquired from adivasi / dalit families.

In Maharashtra:

Submergence affected

3300+ PAFs in 33 villages (balance as on today approximately 2000)

Compensatory afforestation / Catchment area treatment

There is no estimate for the number of families being affected by these environmental protective measures. It is being carried out in atleast 49 adivasi villages in Akrani tehsil and tens of villages in Akkalkua tehsil of Nandurbar district over adivasi lands. (approximately 3000-5000 tribal families)

Secondary displacement due to loss of lands to resettlement sites

This is a serious issue here. The PAFs are being relocated in adivasi lands where the rights of the original adivasis who have been living there have not been recognized. This has led to serious conflict and even the death of two original inhabitants at one of the R&R sites.

Atleast for those affected by submergence, since the beginning of the project, one would expect a correct estimation of the number of PAFs, acknowledgement and granting of their traditional and customary rights, submergence impact on their properties and based on all these, complete assessment of agricultural land required for all. This having been done would have, led to a “Master Plan on Resettlement and Rehabilitation.” This was exactly what was stipulated by the NWDTA. Such a plan was required to be ready by 1981 to ascertain those to go to Gujarat for resettlement and those to be resettled in their own State.

Nothing of this has happened. A total violation of NWDTA thus is obvious. In the above context it is seen that the Governments have

Current Situation of R&R, Land in Gujarat:

There are serious problems concerning R&R in Gujarat.

Current Situation of R&R, Land in Madhya Pradesh:

Number of R&R sites Required

Number of R&R sites Almost Complete

Number of R&R sites development under progress

Number of R&R sites yet to be established

EL 85m





EL 90m





EL 95m





Current Situation of R&R, Land in Maharashtra:

  1. Many PAFs at the R&R sites are yet to receive 7/12 extracts (legal land title) for the land allotted to them, even after 6-4 years of shifting to the site. Therefore the situation now is that inspite of giving up their rights over the land and other resources in their original villages they are yet to be given rights over the land where they have been relocated.

  2. The principle of community rehabilitation firmly entrenched in the provisions of the NWDTA are being flagrantly violated. Sufficient contiguous land is not available so as to facilitate community resettlement.

  3. Those who have been allotted uncultivable lands (stony, rocky, naala land, stumps, weeds, shrubs, etc.) are faced with the situation where the Government is simply refusing to change these uncultivable lands and re-allot them with cultivable lands. This has given rise to a situation where they have problem of survival.

  4. Atleast 200 legal land holder families from original village including even old PAFs are yet to receive land even after being shifted to the site for so many years. They have been reduced to landless adivasis here. This is a blatant violation of the NWDTA.

  5. Some legal land holders have been allotted only 1 hectare instead of the2 hectares they are entitled to. The Government of Maharashtra is refusing to accept these facts.

  6. The division of land rights and successors’ rights have not been granted in the original villages before shifting them here thereby reducing their legal entitlements in resettlement. Many young PAFs have been considered as landless and have been allotted only 1 hectare of land instead of 2 hectares.

  7. Hundreds of families still remain to be declared but have been shifted here. They are yet to be allotted land. They have raised this issue a number of times and have filed their complaints but the Government has refused to take any decision in this matter. They have no life support systems due to which their survival is getting progressively impossible.

  8. Some unmarried major daughters have not been allotted lands inspite of the policy of Government of Maharashtra, which entitles them to land.

  9. There are a number of major sons who have not been included to have houses in the original villages. They demand that this is done and they should be ‘declared’ so as to enable the shifting of their houses to the rehabilitation sites. There are atleast 477 youth awaiting decision as their application claims to be declared are still pending.

  10. There are many families who are yet to be allotted land-plots till today. The Government has refused to allot land plots near their fields citing that no land was available.

  11. PAFs still do not have full ownership rights of the lands allotted to them in the R&R sites.

  12. There is no variety of diets due to the poor quality of land. Also they do not have any access to the forest produce or fish that they had easy and plentiful in their original villages. It must be said that the annual income from the forest used to be between Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 25,000. Another important drawback is that there is no grazing land in the R&R site quite opposite to the vast grazing grounds they had access to in their original villages. Even beyond this even if the land allotted is cultivable they still have incorporated huge economic and financial losses in the R&R site. There have received no proper compensation for these losses.

  13. Not a single acre of land has been provided with irrigation facilities in this R&R site. This is a blatant and flagrant violation of the NWDTA which stipulates that the PAFs be provided suitable cultivable and irrigable lands in resettlement with irrigation facilities.

  14. With regard to all the above problems it is seen that the Government is showing no interest in alleviating the severe problems faced by the PAFs.

  1. Underestimation of PAFs due to faulty level and baseline surveys. There are 757 application claims to be declared still pending.

  2. Inaccurate level surveys leading to omission of ‘tapu’ villages and those villages becoming socially unviable units. Egs. Bamana, Maal, Savaria, Bilgaon, Khardi, Atti, Keli, Teenismaal, Chinchkhedi, Roshmal, Dhutal, etc.

  3. The settlement of land, which remains to be done in most of the submergence villages, would result in an increase in PAFs and their land holdings.

  4. Adoption of a uniform and just R&R policy by the three States.

  5. Adoption of a more realistic cut-off date from 1-1-1987 to the date of displacement. Whoever is more than 18 years old as of that date would be classified as major son and entitled to rehabilitation package.

  6. A large quantity of land would be required for allotment to those PAFs who have been shifted but not allotted land, or have been allotted partial/complete uncultivable lands, less lands, etc.


All families affected by this project or its related works in various ways are “project affected. They include those affected by canal, colony, reservoir, sanctuary, compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment, downstream affected, drainage affected, etc. Rehabilitation policies that are category-specific have to be prepared and action plans scheduled for the resettlement of all these affected families. This is still pending.

With regard to rehabilitation of those affected by submergence, it is seen that the process is infested with intrinsic structural problems stemming from lack of just R&R policy, suitable agricultural land, commitment on the part of the Governments to resettlement PAFs completely so as to regain their life standards prior to rehabilitation. There is a serious lack of resources especially irrigable agricultural land in all the three States, which is a serious hurdle in this resettlement process. Moreover it is very clear; now, that these are insurmountable problems and that rehabilitation of such a large scale of affected families even as per NWDTA, within time framework, is impossible.

The prevailing situation in the three States clearly establishes that PAFs at not only EL 90m but even at EL 80m and below are not fully rehabilitated. There are atleast 3500 families at EL 90m in their villages on their traditionally owned lands and forest, who would be affected by submergence. There are others evicted, relocated at sites but not rehabilitated. All these stand a clear witness to the violation of NWDT Award.

The granting of land rights, updating of land records (especially in the adivasi belt), conducting of level and baseline re-surveying and hence, the re-estimating the actual number of PAFs has to be done. Till all the categories are recognized as project affected and action plans for their resettlement are not formulated and executed, there is no possibility of free and fair resettlement.

We, therefore conclude that

1.No master plan for resettlement and rehabilitation of PAFs is ready as yet although it was directly, indirectly stipulated in the Award that such a plan should be ready by 1981-82.

2.It is important to review if resettlement of all the PAFs those as per the definition of the Tribunal and belonging to other categories, of people affected by project related works is possible at all.

3. There are obvious problems in resettlement that need to be recognized, acknowledged and redressed.

4.The violation of the NWDTA has already taken place with homes and lands of tribals having been submerged and still no resettlement in sight.

5. Further construction of the dam will make conditions almost in all tribal comminutes in the 3 states, unfit to survive. If the dam is constructed upto 90 mts, then 3500 tribals families will be seriously affected, or submerged without resettlement and rehabilitation, losing their life and livellihood

6. This will be illegal violation of NWDTA and hence also of the judgement. Can law and justice really allow this?

7. Such an injust imposition of devastation and destitution of the tribals is absolute violation of specially protection granted to them under the constitution of India (Fifth Schedule) to ensure for them Peace and Governance beyond equality and justice. The only way to avert such an uncivilised, inhuman is to halt the construction at Sardar Sarovar Dam and open sluices to make available to the already affected tribal families part of their land illegally submerged since 1993.

Narmada Bachao Andolan