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dam-l ENS: India's Narmada Dam Construction Resumes



>
> India's Narmada Dam Construction Resumes
>
>BOMBAY, India, February 22, 1999 (ENS) - After almost five years, the
>Supreme Court of India has given the green light to resume the
>construction of the main dam of the multi-purpose Sardar Sarovar reservoir
>on the Narmada River.
>
>The court had ordered a halt to the dam building on June 5, 1995, on a
>petition filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement)
>on the issue of rehabilitation of the people displaced and otherwise
>adversely affected by the dam. Construction had been stopped at the dam
>site since then.
>
>In an interim order delivered Thursday by the three-member bench, Chief
>Justice A.S. Anand, Justice B.N. Kripal and Justice S.P. Bharucha, the
>government of Gujarat has been permitted to raise the height of the dam
>from 80.3 metres to 85 metres. Construction began Friday.
>
>The Narmada is India's largest westward flowing river and is of immense
>religious and cultural importance to the people living on its banks. It is
>also the subject of one of the largest river development projects in the
>world, the Narmada Valley Project, which envisages the construction of
>thirty large and hundreds of small dams.
>
>The largest of these, the Sardar Sarovar Project, has been strongly
>challenged, not only by the tribal and peasant communities in the Narmada
>valley, who will be deprived of land, forest and the river, but also by
>hundreds of peoples' organizations, scientists and professionals.
>
>The court case brought by Narmada Bachao Andolan was supported by the
>Madhya Pradesh state government which wanted the height of the dam to be
>reduced from the 455 feet (138.6 metres) awarded by the Narmada Tribunal
>to at least 436 feet (132.8 metres) to save some areas in that state from
>being submerged.
>
>The Madhya Pradesh submission was denied by the court. "No concrete proof
>could be provided as to how the profile of the dam would irrevocably
>change after 80.3 metres where it stands now," the judges said.
>
>Critics say Sardar Sarovar claims to but cannot solve the water problems
>of Gujarat. The project is planned to irrigate 14 percent of Gujarat's
>cultivatable land and to supply drinking water to 8,215 villages and 135
>towns and cities in Gujarat.
>
>The dam is expected to produce 1,450 MW what the state of Gujarat
>considers to be "low-cost" hydroelectric power. The power generated is to
>be shared among the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
>
>The submergence is spread over three states - Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra
>and Gujarat. To deal with the problems of people affected by dam
>construction and flooding, the Grievance Redressal Authority, has been
>newly constituted under the chairmanship of P.D. Desai, retired chief
>justice of three states. The Authority has been asked to conduct a survey
>of the relief and rehabilitation work at 61 sites and give an interim
>report by April 9.
>
>Depending on the outcome of the Authority's report, the Supreme Court has
>indicated that the matter might be taken up for further hearing on April
>15.
>
>The Court also ruled that the Gujarat government should file an affidavit
>indicating the status of further relief and rehabilitation measures which
>have been taken for enabling it to raise the height to the dam up to three
>possible levels - 90, 95 or 110 metres.
>
>                 The counsel for government of Gujarat, Harish Salve, has
>claimed on a number of occasions                  during the hearing that
>relief and rehabilitation work has been satisfactorily done for families
>affected by the height of the dam up to 90 metres.
>
>                 After indications were given by the court that permission
>could be given for construction, the                  petitioner Narmada
>Bachao Andolan (NBA) argued that there were human rights violations
>connected                  with the relief and rehabilitation of the
>present families ousted by dam construction.
>
>                 All people ousted and otherwise affected by construction
>due to be taken in the next six                  months had to be
>completely rehabilitated before the work could proceed, NBA argued.
>
>Just by giving them land, or issuing them notices did not mean that relief
>and rehabilitation had been completed, said the NBA counsel. That no land
>had been acquired by Madhya Pradesh and that there was a distinct split
>between the two states regarding the height of the dam, made the situation
>of the project-affected families worse, he said.
>
>The court had made it clear from the beginning that its immediate concern
>was the next five metres of height and the relief and rehabilitation work
>associated with it. The two states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat were
>asked to fight their battles in other forums.
>
> Environment News Service (ENS) 1999. All Rights Reserved.
>
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