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Clearance For Raising Narmada Dam Height

By Gargi Parsai

The Hindu
15 May, 2003

The Narmada Control Authority today gave its clearance for raising the height of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat from the present 95 metres to 100 metres (plus three metres humps), enlarging the area and habitations under submergence this monsoon season. The permission comes a year after the Gujarat Government was allowed to raise the height to 95 metres (plus three metres humps) before the Assembly elections last year.

When contacted over telephone in a remote village in the Narmada Valley, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader, Medha Patkar, lashed out against the decision saying it spelt "disaster, destruction and human tragedy" for thousands of tribals and villagers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra who would face temporary and permanent submergence this monsoon.

"Just last night the Maharashtra Government took us to show some land in a hilly region, how can they then claim that they have settled affected people. Even in Madhya Pradesh nothing has happened. Only a handful of landless people have been shifted to house plots. The landed have not moved as they are being offered cash. Gujarat has shown ex-partee allotment, only on paper. How can the NCA accept this? This is a clear violation of the Supreme Court order and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award. It seems Governments have now stopped caring for people," she said.

The decision to increase the height was taken at the 66th Emergency Meeting of the NCA here chaired by the Water Resources Secretary and NCA chairman, A.K. Goswami. The Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, Gopal Reddy, who heads the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R and R) Sub-Group, also attended.

Even while Maharashtra has to complete the mandatory rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced people, the Sub-Group in its meeting on Tuesday accepted the State's "undertaking" to do so before the monsoon and recommended to the NCA to permit raising the height of the dam to 100 metres. It, however, directed the State Governments concerned to make contingency arrangements to "safeguard" the project-affected families against any "untoward" incident during the flood season.

The R and R Sub-Group asked the Maharashtra Government to shift all project-affected families settled at temporary shelters to R and R sites well before the monsoon. The State was also directed to look into the grievances of the previously settled families and redress them.

Madhya Pradesh said it had resettled nearly 3,700 families from 51 villages, partly in Gujarat. After claiming that it had no land to rehabilitate a total of more than 33,000 families who would be displaced, the State has moved for giving cash compensation.

As per a Supreme Court Order and the NWDT award, oustees must be resettled and rehabilitated six months before raising the height of the dam with land for land compensation.