Saturday, August 15, 2015

40 Alternative Nobel Prize recipents seek UN intervention to stop Narmada dam work, plead for urgent review

Campaigners gather at Narmada bank in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh
By Our Representative
In a major boost to the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s (NBA’s) ongoing campaign against the Gujarat government and the Centre to raise the Sardar Sarovar dam’s height by 17 metres, 40 prominent recipients of the Stockholm-based Right to Livelihood Award have sought United Nations (UN) intervention for urgent review of the mega project. The award is also known as “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
Seeking direct involvement of the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Labour Organization “to facilitate a comprehensive review of the project”, the appeal has asked the UN to send their “Special Rapporteurs on Housing Rights, Human Rights, Internal Displacement, Rights of Indigenous Communities and UN Women to visit the affected areas of Sardar Sarovar Project in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat immediately to assess the situation.”
The appeal, says, signatories “stand united” in their opposition to the “unlawful” submergence of 244 villages and one township by “flooding” caused by the dam. It has been signed by prominent Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva and well-known campaigner Swami Agnivesh along with top human rights champions and intellectuals from US, UK, Hungary, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, Turkey, Chad, Indonesia, Nepal, New Zealand, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Guatemala and other countries.
Campaigners take a boat ride to protest against dam
“We firmly uphold the inviolable human rights and environmental justice for thousands of families in the Narmada Valley. For over two decades, we have been observing with immense concern the developments around the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), which has disastrous implications for the sustenance of indigenous communities in the Narmada Valley and that of other riverine populations, which have, for centuries, built flourishing lives and livelihoods around the Narmada River”, the appeal says.
Expressing “serious concern over the colossal harm caused, and to be caused, by the SSP and other dam projects on the rich, yet fragile, eco- system of the Valley”, the appeal says, the dam will “submergence of the most fertile agricultural land, dense forest, and tree cover, and the destruction of cultural monuments and archaeology of this oldest of civilizations in the world.”
Warning “submergence, displacement, and pauperization” to the affected farmers, fish workers, and potters, the appeal says, while the “rehabilitation” of about 10,000 families is welcome, the scale of “the still pending resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) of more than 40,000 families is massive, as cultivable farm land, house sites, civic amenities, fishing rights, livelihood sources, and so on, are yet to be ensured.”
“Appalled” that the “glaring backlog” of rehabilitation of thousands of families has remained unattended”, the appeal particularly hits out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for championing the dam height increase without focusing on “the cause of the displaced”. It says, his “decision to increase the height of SSP by 17 meters up to its final height of 138.68 meters” poses “grave threat to the lives and livelihood of all these families.”
Campaigners on a sit-in to protest dam height
Expressing “deep concern” over the dilution of R&R norms by paying cash instead of giving land to the oustees, the letter claims, this “has not worked out in the interest of a majority of oustees, the indigenous, and the non-literate”, adding, “Rather, an ensuing saga of corruption has been unearthed” leading to “in-depth investigation by a Judicial Commission.”
Asking the Government of India withdraw its decision to raise the height of the dam, as it does not involve application of the recently-enacted Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the letter says, the way oustees are being treated “is not only a serious violation of the law of the land and the judgments of the Supreme Court of India, but also a transgression of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention, 1989, of ILO.”

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