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Impact of increase in Narmada dam height: 6,000 families await watery grave in valley, alleges Medha Parkar

By Our Representative
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar has alleged that more than 6,000 families are awaiting “watery grave”, as their houses, livestock and fertile agricultural land “will face submergence because of the Government of India going ahead with raising the Narmada dam from the present 121.92 metres to 138.64 metres.” The height of the dam is being raised even though “the Supreme Court is still to give its verdict on legality of the ongoing construction on the dam”, she has added.
Talking with newspersons at Jantar Mantar in Delhi following a protest by Narmada dam affected persons, Patkar said, “Large-scale irregularities, manipulations and ongoing corruption in the Narmada valley; including in disbursement of compensation to farmers and other affected people, are bigger than the recently exposed Vyapam Scam.”
Hundreds of tribals from the Narmada valley marched in protest against raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and “denial” of the rehabilitation of the oustees. Apart from Patkar, those who addressed the rally included Hannan Mollah, Annie Raja, Anil Chaudhary, Swami Agnivesh, Sagari Chaabra, Kavita Krishnan, Kuldip Nayar and others.
Calling the Modi government decision to raise the height of the dam by 17 metres a “direct violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) which disallows any further displacement before complete rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley”, it was suggested, that recent fact-finding report titled “Drowning a Valley – Destroying a Civilization” points to the “grave implications” of this move, displacement on an estimated 2.5 lakh families in 245 villages in three states, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
The Fact Finding Report has been written by political leaders, public personalities and experts Hannan Mollah, Annie Raja, Binoy Viswam, Dr Sunilam, Prof Raj Kachroo and Soumya Dutta. It was prepared after their visit in the valley reveals numerous violations and non-compliance of judicial orders, inaccurate surveys, massive corruption and denial of justice to those forced to suffer for a misplaced cause of ‘development’.
Journalist Kuldip Nayyar spoke of “lack of interest” among the elected representatives of Parliament in raising issues related to the dam. Annie Raja, general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) said, people in Narmada valley have fought on for 30 years now, not accepting compensation even under pressure. Hannan Mollah, general secretary, All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), referring to the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, said it was meant for “corporate land grab.”
Already, it was pointed out, the dam-affected Chimalkhedi village in Maharashtra saw a suicide on June 9 committed due to failure to implement rehabilitation of an oustee family. “Displacement induced huge financial distress to the families and other prominent members in the protest raised fears that a similar trend may follow across the Narmada Valley”, NBA statement said.
It warned, “Following the mammoth catastrophe in Nepal and Uttarakhand, the dam-affected people from the valley have urged activists, environmentalists, policy-makers and the governments to take cognizance of maintaining ecological balance for the lives and livelihoods of more than 2.5 lakh families, already facing massive devastation.”

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