Sunday, August 07, 2016

Anti-Narmada dam oustees continue protest as MP govt issues alert on threat of flooding of Rajghat, Badwani

The bridge which has begun overflowing
By Our Representative
Amidst Narmada waters rising in “feet and meters”, to quote anti-Narmada dam activists protesting against the alleged refusal to rehabilitate an estimated 15,500 project-affected families, the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government has issued an alert about possible flooding of low lying areas of Badwani and the nearby regions in upstream of the dam.
The alert has been issued even as the Gujarat government prepared itself to “celebrate” overflow of the Narmada dam as a result of huge waters gushing from the upstream. Already, thousands of tourists from across the state are rushing the overflowing dam.
The MP government alert has been sounded amidst two other big dams upstream of the Narmada dam, Omkareshwar Indira Sagar, opened their five and eight gates respectively. This became inevitable as the water levels of the Omkareshwar dam crossed 191 metres, and of Indira Sagar dam crossed 260.4 metres.
The warning comes as hundreds of activists sitting in protest on the banks of Narmada river at Rajghat, Badwani, since July 30, 2016. According to the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has organized the protest, the levels – 191 metres and 260.4 metres – of the two dams “had to be maintained” in order to ensure that there is no further submergence.
Meanwhile, the state government has evicted shopkeepers in the immediate downstream of Omkareshwar, which is also a religious-cultural centre, even as waters have reached Rajghat, submerging the first temple on the bank of Narmada.
The Narmada water rose from 15 to 17 feet above the Rajghat Bridge in less than 24 hours, cutting off villages in Dhar district on the opposite (northern) bank of the river from Rajghat in Badwani. Earlier, the gates of two smaller dams, Tawa and Bargi, on Narmada in MP, were opened to allow flood waters to move to the downstream.
At Rajghat, the satyagrahis are sitting in batches, in teams from four villages from four tehsils every day. In a symbolic gesture against refusal to rehabilitate thousands of Narmada dam oustees, they planted trees around Gandhi Samadhi. There is a strong fear that decades of trees may go into submergence.
A section of the Narmada satyagrahis knocked at the doors of Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in Badwani. Shouting slogans ‘no rehabilitation, no dam’, women and men belonging to several villages, Amlali, Pipri, Kasrawad, Pichhodi, Semalda and Ekalbara, sought answers to questioned on their status from the Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Officer.
They confronted the official claim of the Madhya Pradesh government that there is zero balance in rehabilitation. While the NBA activists said 15,500 oustees families remained to be rehabilitated, the official accepted that “at least 700” are yet to get land and/or compensation, as their applications are pending before the Grievances Redressal Authority (GRA), which is supposed to take complaints on rehabilitation.
Answering questions on disaster management plan, the official failed to show that any such plan exists for those living on the Narmada river banks and might go into submergence as the water levels rise.
The NBA commented, “It may be noted that there have to be District, State and Central Disaster Management Authorities which could plan and implement measures for mitigation and compensation as well as protection of thousands of families who are to face submergence.”
It adds, “No plan seems to be available with the state, though there is an order of the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court directing the state to prepare it for the whole of Narmada Valley.”

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