November 13, 2000

Shri K.R.Narayanan,
The Honorable President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 001

Dear President Narayanan,

We, the undersigned US-based human rights, environmental, fishing and Indian solidarity organizations, are writing to express our concern over the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing construction to proceed on the Sardar Sarovar Project. This ruling comes despite overwhelming evidence that the project will cause environmental degradation and jeopardize the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people, including a large proportion of adivasis (tribals). The project was cleared although no credible environmental studies or rehabilitation plans were ever completed.

No Land for Resettlement

The court has authorized the dam to be raised to 90 meters immediately and in five-meter increments based on approval from committees that have failed in the past to give fair decisions and have shown themselves to be biased in favor of the dam. The judges have justified their decision for construction of the dam to be started immediately on the grounds that the Narmada Control Authority’s Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub-group has certified that necessary resettlement has been completed for construction up to 90 meters. Yet in fact no such approval has been given. The Madhya Pradesh government has admitted, in affidavits submitted to the Supreme Court as late as July 2000, that the state does not have any arable land to provide to oustees who will be displaced when the dam reaches 90 meters.

The majority judgment claims that "a properly drafted [resettlement and rehabilitation] plan would improve living standards of displaced persons after displacement” and has given project authorities four weeks to draw up a plan for the 200,000 people to be displaced by the reservoir. A plan was supposed to have been completed by 1981, as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award. It is not credible that the authorities who have failed to produce a credible plan in 20 years can complete one in a month’s time.

Violations of Environmental Clearances

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the majority judgment by Justices Kirpal and Anand states that "experience does not show that the construction of a large dam is not cost effective or leads to ecological or environmental degradation. On the contrary there has been ecological upgradation with the construction of large dams." This opinion flies in the face of a huge corpus of evidence showing the massive environmental impacts of dams in India and around the world.

In his minority judgment, Justice Bharucha has pointed out that construction has been pushed forward in systematic violation of legal requirements for environmental clearances. Conditional environmental clearance was given to the project in June 1987 despite the fact that basic environmental impact studies required under Indian law were never completed and even today remain incomplete. For this reason, Justice Bharucha stated that further construction should be halted until a new clearance is given based on the completion of a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the project.

Call on President to Stop Construction

In light of the arguments outlined above, it is clear that any further construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam will have grave consequences. It is imperative that immediate steps be taken to safeguard against the blatant violation of the right to life and livelihood of the many adivasi communities in the Narmada Valley. Otherwise, a serious human tragedy will develop in the coming monsoon as homes and fields of thousands of families will be flooded. As the Constitutional head of the Union of India, we urge you to:

  • protect the lives of adivasi communities by immediately halting construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project.
  • ensure complete resettlement and rehabilitation of the thousands already affected by the reservoir, canal system, construction site and other related project infrastructure.
  • constitute an independent commission for a complete, participatory review of all aspects of the Sardar Sarovar Project.


Patrick McCully

Vinay Kumar

International Rivers Network

Friends of River Narmada

This letter is also endorsed by the following 65 US-based organizations.

  • Soren Ambrose, 50 Years Is Enough Network, Washington, DC
  • Jeff Miller, Alameda Creek Alliance, Canyon, California
  • Janet Gottschalk, Alliance for Justice, Washington, DC
  • Abha Sur, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Elizabeth Maclin, American Rivers, Washington, DC
  • Ananth Chikkattur, Asha for Education - Boston Chapter, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Nitish Agrawal, Asha for Education - Princeton Chapter, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Vinay Kumar, Association for India's Development - Boston Chapter,Boston, Massachusetts
  • Deeptha Thattai, Association for India's Development - Columbia Chapter,Columbia, South Carolina
  • Gokul Janga, Association for India's Development - SF Bay Area Chapter, Foster City, California
  • Kay Treakle, Bank Information Center, Washington, DC
  • Basav Sen, BankBusters, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Russell Long, Bluewater Network, San Francisco, California
  • Wick Pancoast, The Borneo Project, Berkeley, California
  • Daisy Pitkin, Campaign for Labor Rights, Washington, DC
  • Barbara Larcom, Casa Baltimore/Limay, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Shivani Chaudhry, Center for International Environmental Law, Washington, DC
  • Dawn Griffin, Circle of Life Foundation, Redway, California
  • Kay Dellinger, Coalition Against Global Exploitation, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Vivian Stockman, Concerned Citizens' Coalition, Spencer, West Virginia
  • Marge Van Cleef, Connecticut Peace Coalition - New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut
  • Adnan Morshed, Committee on Rights in South Asia, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Ian McIntosh, Cultural Survival, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Beth Burrows, The Edmonds Institute, Edmonds, Washington
  • Anjali Kamat, Ekta, San Francisco, California
  • Jamie Newlin, El Paso Group of the Sierra Club, El Paso, Texas
  • Shiney Varghese, Environment and Agriculture Program, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Korinna Horta, Environmental Defense, Washington, DC
  • Bill Walker, Environmental Working Group, Oakland, California
  • Anuradha Mittal, Food First, Oakland, California
  • Pam Wellner, Free Burma: No Petro Dollars, Berkeley, California
  • Michelle Chan, Friends of the Earth, Washington, DC
  • Juliette Beck, Global Exchange, San Francisco, California
  • Paula Palmer, Global Response, Boulder, Colorado
  • Richard Weigel, Hawai'i Sustainable Lifestyle Network, 'Aiea, Hawai'i
  • Shrikumar Poddar, India Foundation, East Lansing, Michigan
  • Brian Tokar, Institute for Social Ecology, Plainfield, Vermont
  • Vijaya Nagarayan, Institute for the Study of Natural &Cultural Resources, Berkeley, California
  • Rev. Len D. Beyea, Interfaith Alliance for Human Rights, Santa Cruz, California
  • Amin Tejani, International Service Society, East Lansing, Michigan
  • Lonnie Maxfield, Jivan Institute, Bellevue, Washington
  • Cha Smith, KAHEA: The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Pat Rasmussen, Leavenworth Audubon Adopt-a-Forest, Peshastin, Washington
  • A Hearnaa, Massachusetts Earth First, Montague, Massachusetts
  • Chandana Mathur, Narmada Solidarity Coalition, New York, New York
  • Bruce Carpenter, New York Rivers United, Rome, New York
  • Diana Bohn, Nicaragua Center for Community Action, San Francisco, California.
  • Daniella Chace, Organic Consumers Association, Mackay, Idaho
  • Doug Norlen, Pacific Environment, Washington, DC
  • Meena Natarajan, Pangea World Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Cecilia R. Vinas, Peacemaking Committee, Swarthmore Presbyterian Church, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
  • Shanna Langdon, Project Underground, Berkeley, California
  • Noah J. Madlin, Rainforest Action Group for Indigenous Peoples, North Wales, Pennsylvania
  • Han Shan, The Ruckus Society, Berkeley, California
  • Pat Ford, Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, Boise, Idaho
  • Mayurika Poddar, Seva International, Okemos, Michigan
  • Dr. Donart, Social Justice and Peace Commission, Clinton, Iowa
  • Shawn Garvey, South Yuba River Citizens League, Nevada City, California
  • Ritu Primlane, Thimmakka's Resources for Environmental Education, Oakland, California
  • Amit Srivastava, TRAC/Corporate Watch, San Francisco, California
  • Penny Lind, Umpqua Watersheds, Roseburg, Oregon
  • Mike Prokosch, United for a Fair Economy, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Sara Todd, University of Kentucky Green Thumb, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Rajiv Rawat, Uttarakhand Support Committee, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Dr. K.S. Sripada Raju, Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, Okemos, Michigan