Archive for June, 2013

NBA: Narmada Dam Height Rise Travesty of Justice.

30 June 2013
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has been at the forefront of struggle for over two decades to secure justice for Sardar Sarovar Dam/Narmada Project dam oustees or project affected persons (PAP). PAP are the people whose lands, livelihoods, way of life are disturbed or lost  through the submergence caused by the impounded lake formed when river is dammed. Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) on river Narmada has stayed at 122 meters height for some time now because the valiant struggle waged by PAP all these years. NBA showed that Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R and R) has been tardy, and have left many PAP still completely or partially uncovered. NBA exposed massive corruption that has plagued R and R efforts; and  also exposed the gross negligence in implementing measures to mitigate environmental damage. Yesterday, NBA issued an urgent action alert in response to a Times of India report that government is about allow dam construction to proceed to reach its final design height of 138.64 metres. “Both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments said during a meeting convened by Union government’s department of social justice on Thursday that the process of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) has been completed in their respective regions and that they have no objection if the height of the dam was raised… Despite getting an environmental clearance two years ago, in January 2010 the Gujarat government could not raise the dam height because of about 400 project-affected families in Maharashtra A senior official said the committee has approved the action taken report submitted by Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP and found it satisfactory… At present Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd command area is just 5.4 lakh hectare as against the promised 18.06 lakh hectare. The other major challenge before the government is to complete the canal network, as sufficient water is not reaching arid regions of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch“. NBA’s action alert differs in highly significant ways with the above highlighted portions from quoted TOI report.
  • Instead of just 400 project affected families in Maharashtra, there are over 4000 families in M.P. and 1000 families in Maharashtra, who have not been resettled to their government decided entitlements. Moreover, thousands of landless including agricultural labourers, fish workers, potters and other artisans are yet to get an alternative source of livelihood as per the State Policy and Action Plan, endorsed by the Supreme Court.
  • Even the 540,000 hectares are, which can be irrigated with present water availability at 122 meters of dam height, only partially covered because of Gujarat government’s failure to complete the necessary canal network required for the same in past 30 years. NBA says that canal network is less than 30% complete.
  • Though environment clearance was granted, such clearances are subject to conditions that project authorities/state government have to fulfill. NBA points out that many committees of MoEF and the latest one chaired by Shri Devendra Pandey have clearly concluded based on the documents and data that almost all the conditions in the environmental clearance are not only not fulfilled, but, in fact, stand violated.
  • Lastly, Justice Jha commission is enquiring into massive corruption in R and R schemes and misappropriation of funds by officials and agents.

What is the unholy hurry therefore to increase the dam height hastily, which would affect further 40,000 families or some 200,000 persons from over 245 villages that would be additionally submerged? Government has shown willful callousness towards PAP in project after project since independence. In a society, which claims to be governed by a noble constitution and rule of law, affected populace should be, at the least, properly and humanely settled before there existing livelihoods and way of life are destroyed.
Sanjay Kak produced a 84 minutes documentary on the long saga of struggle by Narmada project oustees, and their trials and tribulations. Watch the movie, “Words On Water” here.
PS: According to Desh Gujarat, the meeting, which Times of India says is to take place on 2 July (Sardar Sarovar dam clears another hurdle), would have taken place on 27 June (Crucial meeting on permission to Narmada dam height today)- the day before TOI report was published. 
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