Saturday, July 16, 2016

Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh "consent" closure of Narmada dam gates: What good would it do?, asks Patkar

By Our Representative
Amidst “fear” in the upstream of the Narmada dam about massive submergence once its 30 gates, already installed, are closed, a top knowledgeable source close to the development has revealed that two states – Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh – have "given consent for closing down the gates." Only Maharashtra hasn't have yet given its nod.
Linked to the completion of the rehabilitation of the dam oustees, it is not known how Maharashtra will hold its decision on gates' closure, as its officials are under tremendous pressure to allow them to closed down”, the source said, adding, “The Government of India has directed the Narmada Control Authority (ANC) to take a decision on this at the earliest on the basis of the three states' formal consent.”
In Ahmedabad for attending a national convention on land rights, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which is the chief opponent of the Narmada dam, told Counterview, “If this is true, hundreds of families, who haven't yet been rehabilitated, especially in Madhya Pradesh, will face submergence because of the creation of a huge 214 km long reservoir.”
Addressing the three-day convention, which began in Ahmedabad's Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Patkar wondered what good the dam's completion is going to do the farmers of Gujarat. “Four lakh hectares (ha) of land from the 18 lakh in Narmada canal irrigation region has already been decommanded”, she said.
“With industries being the main focus of Narmada water in Gujarat, the farmers of Saurashtra and Kutch will remained deprived of it”, she said, adding how the proposed Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), which overlaps the Narmada main canal “would mean 60 per cent of Gujarat's land would be open for acquisition for industry.”
“It is a huge conspiracy being played on the people, particularly of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh”, Patkar said, adding, “There is a need to understand the whole issue in the context of the type of development that is afloat ever since 1991, when the new economic policy was floated. Based on this, one would need to fight economic, environmental, social and political battle.”
Kanu Kalsaria
Pointing out that the present government under Narendra Modi is only more aggressively following the NEP, Patkar said, “Under the previous UPA government, there was a space for discussion or consultation before any move to come up with changes in laws affecting the people. Under Modi, there is not such space.” 
Insisting that the NBA is not against industrialization, Patkar said, “We are not fools to say that land, water, forests or minerals should not be touched. The point is understand how and for whom these resources should be touched.”
Held under the banner of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (BAA), the national convention saw Aam Aadmi Party leader Kanu Kalsaria, a former Gujarat BJP MLA, praise Patkar, considered till recently a persona non grata for her alleged anti-Gujarat stance because of her opposition to the Narmada dam.
Kalsaria recalled an incident when he met Modi as BJP MLA in mid-2000s opposing a proposed small dam being built in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. “I told Modi that the dam would displace people's livelihood. I was shocked to hear his argument: He replied, I was behaving like Medha Patkar, who is opposed to development. And, there the matter ended.”

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