Mr. Balakrishnan, Ambassador
Embassy of India
Kirchenfeldstrasse 28
3005 Berne, Switzerland
19 October 2000

Supreme Court Decision on Sardar Sarovar Project

Dear Sir:

The Berne Declaration is a public-interest organization with 16,000 members and has supported more equitable North-South relations for more than thirty years. At many instances - such as the quest for Swiss bank documents on the Bofors case, the fight against the illicit Basmati patents, or the struggle for more equitable international trade agreements - the BD has supported the concerns of the Indian government and society. It has also had the pleasure to work with Arundhati Roy, Amitav Ghosh and other artists from India at many occasions.

We must now inform you that we are absolutely shocked to learn about the Supreme Court decision of 18 October on the Sardar Sarovar project. The Court has allowed the construction of the dam from 88 up to 90 meters immediately, and up to 138 meters in further stages.

As the Narmada Bachao Andolan documented in all detail, the Sardar Sarovar project will not achieve ist purported benefits. Many alternatives which are based on the local knowledge and initiatives would be available. The necessary environmental studies have never been done. And the proper rehabilitation of the hundreds of thousands of people who would lose their livelihoods to the project is impossible. According to the Court decision, the project authorities are now to prepare a resettlement and rehabilitation plan for the 200,000 people affected by the reservoir within four weeks. Yet such a plan was to be prepared by 1981 already. The authorities have never been able to accomplish this, and the people who have been displaced by the project so far were never properly rehabilitated. Further, we understand that the Court decision does not even bother to consider the fate of the more than 100,000 people affected by the project canals.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan states that the Supreme Court decision "violates the Constitution of India and of democratic governance". We must also point out that the decision violates all international standards and good practices of developing energy and water projects. According to UN conventions (such as those on indigenous peoples), World Bank policies and UNEP guidelines, and the evolving consensus of the World Commission on Dams, needs and options must be analyzed in a fair and participatory way, affected people and particularly indigenous peoples must have full rights to participate in all decision making, and if a project goes ahead, displaced people must be fully compensated and rehabilitated. The Supreme Court decision flies in the face of all these internationally accepted standards. We must again express our shock and dismay at this outdated and internationally discredited approach to water management, and we will support the Narmada Bachao Andolan in its continued resistance against the Sardar Sarovar project.

The NBA has called on the President of India to intervene immediately to protect the rights of the Adivasi people affected by the project under his constitutional obligation. The Berne Declaration supports this call. We ask you to inform the Indian authorities about our sentiments and our determination. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Peter Bosshard
Berne Declaration