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Narmada dam proving to be "watery grave" for oustees of 245 villages as dam height speeds up to reach full reservoir level

Narmada dam: Pillars to raise dam level  under construction
By Our Representative
In a crucial hearing to take place on August 1, 2015, the two-judge Social Justice Bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Madan Lokur and UU Lalit is likely to decide on a plea by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) seeking a stay on the Gujarat government on raising the Narmada dam height from the present 121.92 metres to the full reservoir level, 138.64 metres. The special bench began the hearing matter in December 2014.
Construction of the dam up to the full reservoir level is said to be in progress at speed faster than the schedule -- it is proposed to be completed by September 2017, but officials are targeting it to reach full reservoir level in January 2017. Gujarat is scheduled to go on assembly polls in December 2017.
In a statement to mark the forthcoming hearing, which is likely to be culmination of the six-month-long arguments over the contentious issue of whether all Narmada dam oustees have been resettled before the decision to raise the dam was taken, the NBA has said that there is a concerted effort to project the dam as a tourism spot when it is proving to be a “watery grave” for the dam’s oustees.
Suggesting that lives of lakhs are at stake because of large-scale submergence at the doorstep, the statement says, already, “time is running out fast” because dark clouds are already “hovering over the lives of thousands of families in the Narmada valley.” Construction work on way to building pillars for taking the dam height to 139.64 metres.
“The waters have already reached 121.92 metres at the dam site, but it cannot overflow as much as it did last year due to the construction of pillars covering half of the space”, the statement points out, criticizing “some Gujarati newspapers for publishing “misleading” reposts of dam overflow projecting the dam as an attractive site for tourists.”
This is being done at a time when, the statement says, the dam is proving to be “a watery grave in 245 villages”, where at stake are “life, culture and environment in the hilly areas and densely populated plain communities.”
“The hearing assumes significance in the backdrop of the monsoon at the doorstep, as the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of people living in the valley is at stake due to the construction of the Project to its full height, in violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), State Rehabilitation Policies and judgments of the Supreme Court in 1991, 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2011”, the statement says.
While 11,000 families have received land as a result of the intense struggle for decades, the fate of thousands others in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat is highly uncertain”, the NBA claims.
“It is an extremely grave situation that while thousands of tribals, farmers, fish workers, landless have not yet been rehabilitated with alternative land, livelihoods, house plots at resettlement sites, even at 121.92 metres”, while “thousands more are yet to be affected with the new dam height increase”, the anti-dam body says.
“The Judicial Inquiry Report into corruption in rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R), to be released in October 2015 will bring forth the scale of violations and corruption”, the statement says, adding, “The government has played a game of numbers and has thrown out 16,000 families out of submergence on the basis of flawed backwater calculations.”
“The clearances for the dam by all authorities are based on these wrong assumptions and false reports of complete rehabilitation”, the NBA underlines, adding, “The Supreme Court shall hear all parties on the issue of jurisdiction with respect to rehabilitation and raise in dam height and thereafter proceed to issue further orders.”

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