Mr Sushil Dubei
Embassy of India
24 October 2000

The Indian Supreme Court ruling on the Sardar Sarovar Project

Your Excellency,

We are writing to share with you our deep concern over the recent ruling by the Supreme Court of India on the the Sardar Sarovar project. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, a national environmental organisation representing some 130,000 members in all municipalities of our country, is shocked to learn that the he 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 has documented in detail, the Sardar Sarovar project will not achieve its 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 livelihood 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 already by 1981. 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 or compensated.

Furthermore, we understand that the Court in its decision did not consider the fate of the more than 100,000 people affected by the canals related to the project.

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 international standards and good practices for energy and water projects. UN resolutions on indigenous peoples, World Bank policies, UNEP guidelines, and the evolving consensus of the World Commission on Dams - all state that needs and options must be analysed in a fair and participatory way, that affected people (particularly indigenous peoples) must have the full right to participate in all decision making, and that if a project goes ahead the displaced people must be fully compensated and rehabilitated. The Supreme Court, in its ruling, disregards all these internationally accepted standards and principles.

We must again express our shock and dismay at this outdated and internationally discredited approach to water management, and we will support the people and communities of in the Narmada valley in their continued resistance against the Sardar Sarovar Project.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan has called on the President of India to intervene immediately, under his constitutional obligation, to protect the rights of the Adivasi people affected by the project. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation supports this call.

Mr Ambassador, we kindly ask you to inform the Indian authorities about our sentiments and our determination. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

Göran Eklöf

Head of International department
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation