Letter To Supreme Court Judges On the Narmada Case


Dr.Ravi Kuchimanchi
October 25, 2000

Chief Jst Anand, Jst Kirpal, Jst Bharucha,
Supreme Court, New Delhi

Honorable Jst. Anand, Kirpal, Bharucha,

Disposing the writ petition 319/1994 filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) you have held in the Majority Judgement (by 2-1) that the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam as determined by the Tribunal award is binding on the States and whose correctness cannot even in principle be challenged by the States, the affected people or reviewed by the Supreme Court. This was the main reason for dismissing NBA's case. You ruled, it is simply impossible to change the height of the dam.

However an affidavit (vol 156 A) filed by Madhya Pradesh in the same writ petition says that the height of Sardar Sarovar has been changed from Maximum Water Level (MWL) of 460 feet to MWL 455 feet with consent of all 3 states in an NCA meeting. In fact people who are below MWL and above the Full Reservoir Level (FRL 455 feet) have to be rehabilitated as per the Tribunal. The reason the states have changed this is so that these people now need not be rehabilitated. More over backwater has to be determined from MWL 460', but it is being determined from 455'. Not only MP but Gujarat also is a party to this since the backwater calculations are done by the Central Water Comission in consultation with both these states. Maharashtra is also not rehabilitating people below MWL 460 feet and backwater but only below 455 feet and backwater. When people pointed this out to one of the GRAs and sought land acquisition and rehabilitation for those below MWL they received a reply that the MWL has been changed from 460' to 455'.

Thus the three states and the machinery to implement the Tribunal, namely the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) have not bound themselves by the Tribunal. They have changed the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam. You may wonder why I am saying that the height of Sardar Sarovar dam is MWL 460', while in your judgement you have said "the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam was determined at FRL 455 feet." In fact your judgement, basing itself on one parameter rather than two, is not consistent with the Tribunal, and has accepted that the height has changed. Clause VII of the Tribunal states that "The Tribunal hereby determines that the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam should be fixed at FRL 455 feet and MWL 460 feet."

Thus we have the curious and regrettable case of the Sardar Sarovar dam whose height cannot be challenged by the people while the States, NCA and even the Supreme Court have changed MWL and tacitly accepted this. This violates not only the Tribunal but the order of the Supreme Court itself.

Your main reason for not reviewing the Tribunal as per the people's case which questioned Sardar Sarovar at the present height of FRL 455 and MWL 460 was that such changes cannot be made. Thus you have judged that the FRL of SS dam cannot be reviewed or changed. FRL and MWL occur in exactly the same manner in every clause of the Tribunal and if one can be changed and that change accepted by you, then so can the other. You may want to know why the governments changed MWL. This is because there are more than 15,000 people who are between MWL 460 and its backwater and MWL 455 and its backwater, and by so changing MWL these people are no longer being rehabilitated. This is because the scale of destruction is so large that every effort is being made by the governments and connected machinery as well as the majority judgment of the Supreme Court to overlook the fact that rehabilitation cannot be done. Thus the dam proceeds in gross violation of the Tribunal and the Supreme Court Judgement.

There are many such violations of the Tribunal, even at 90 m height, upon which I have not fully dwelt in my letter. I would like to know who can stop the construction when illegalities are detected that will cause immediate and irreparable damage. Had it been NCA's decision to build the dam to 90 m, then the RCNCA (Review Committe of NCA) could have stopped it. However by-passing the RCNCA, the Majority Judgement has legislated and given this order, again in violation of its own judgement that the SC order has to respect the Tribunal.


Dr Ravi Kuchimanchi