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Decision to raise Narmada dam height taken in order to "help" Gujarat-based corporate houses: NBA

By Our Representative
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), India’s most well-known anti-Narmada dam body, has said that the recent decision of the Government of India to raise the dam height from 121.92 metres to 139.68 metres has been reached with an eye on helping Gujarat-based “corporates and industries”, who have been “eyeing the Narmada waters and command area land” for quite some time. With this aim in mind, NBA added, “the Gujarat government plans to denotify 4 lakh hecatres (ha) of land from the command area and reserve it for corporates.”
Saying that the decision only goes to suggest “sheer insensitivity” of the government towards “farmers and the entire rural landscape”, the NBA termed it “illegal and undemocratic” as it would “consign 2.5 lakh people – tribals, farmers, fish workers, potters, landless -- to a watery grave, without ensuring land and livelihood-based rehabilitation”, as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award and judgments of the Supreme Court.
In a statement issued soon after a protest rally at Jantar Mantar in Delhi under the NBA, in which hundreds of oustees from Narmada dam affected villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat participated, the anti-dam body said, it “denounced the outrageous manner in which the new government, within just three weeks of assuming power, has chosen to disregard the legitimate questions and concerns raised by a three decades old social movement.”
Pointing out that the “hasty decision” has raised questions about the Prime Minister’s “political and economic motives”, the statement said, the decision has been reached “despite the fact that as of today than 20 per cent of the dam waters are being utilized”. Saying that this is because so far less than 30 per cent of the canal network has been constructed in Gujarat, it wondered, “Why this rush to submergence 245 villages, without any roadmap for using the waters, without adequate canal network in place?”
Predicting that the final cost of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is likely to reach a whopping Rs 90,000 crore, the statement said, “Despite having the most progressive law on rehabilitation, the SSP-affected had to struggle for their rights over years, which led to 11,000 families receiving land in Gujarat and Maharashtra”, but “hardly 30 families in Madhya Pradesh”, where “thousands of families are yet to receive rehabilitation benefits.”
In Madhya Pradesh, the statement said, there is a “nexus of officers and their agents, who duped thousands of oustees”, and about which the Justice Jha commission inquiry report has already given details. Now, “the whole process is sought to be sabotaged”, it said, adding, the decision on Narmada dam leads one to raise “critical questions” on whether it suggested the “development paradigm” of the Modi government.
The NBA demanded:
· Immediately withdraw the decision of 12th June, to raise the height of SSP by 17 metres.
· Undertake a comprehensive, participatory assessment of SSP: including the status of benefits, rehabilitation and environmental compliance as per law.
· Provide land and livelihood based rehabilitation to all the affected families in the three states, as per the NWDTA, state policies, action plans and judicial orders.
· Initiate canal construction work in Gujarat in order to utilize the water already lying idel at 122 metres and stop any diversion of command area land and SSP water to industries and cities, by violating the award.

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