Skip to main content

Sardar Sarovar gate closure without resettlement is "inhuman, unjust" decision: Will SC intervene?

Counterview Desk
Statement by South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People:
On June 17, 2017, a PIB Press Release from Union Ministry of Water Resources announced, “Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared the final raising of Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in Gujarat by lowering of gates and impounding of water in the reservoir upto its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of EL 138.68 mts.
The NCA which met under the Chairmanship of Dr. Amarjit Singh, Secretary (WR, RD & GR) considered all aspects of environmental and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues.”
The gate closure will lead to submergence and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, without even proper resettlement as legally required. There is also no justification for the decision as the canal infrastructure necessary to use the additional water that the dam will store with increase in height from 121.92 mts to 138.68 mts is not even ready.
Unfortunately, this is happening under the active encouragement of all the arms of Union and state governments and also active supervision of the highest judiciary.
As the press release dated June 17, 2017 of Narmada Bachao Andolan rightly said, “The level of falsehood involved in the decision taken by NCA on the closure of Sardar Sarovar gates is unprecedented.” Worse, the media has been spreading such lies about resettlement of Narmada affected families, which even the government has not claimed: “A total of 46,840 PAFs have been resettled in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.”
Let us look at some examples of the unprecedented falsehood in the PIB PR from the Union Government. It said: “The clean (hydro-power generation) would increase by present 1300 MW to 1450 MW with increase in annual generation by about 1100 Million Units (i.e. about Rs.400 crore per annum). In addition, this additional storage would irrigate about 8 lakh hectares. Additionally, about one crore population would get assured drinking water. As it is well known, the Sardar Sarovar Project would primarily meet the water requirement of drought prone and desert areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan.”
Let us see the reality of this claim.
Since canal infrastructure till the fields is not ready, the claimed irrigation cannot happen, till this canal infrastructure is in place. This will take years to build and farmers are not ready to either give land or share costs.There is sufficient water even today to take care of the drinking water needs, so to say that this will become possible due to gate closure is complete falsehood.
It is well known that SSP is for the drought prone areas only in namesake. The drought prone areas are the last and least priorities. The water first went to already water rich central Gujarat region, where canals were also first built and they are getting all the water they need. The Kutch canal that the PM inaugurated less than a month ago had to be closed down soon due to the damage due to the poor quality of work. The very fact that the Kutch canal was last to be built says a lot about the priority of Gujarat and the Centre.
Power generation cannot increase by 1100 MU, since the amount of water available for power generation will decide how much power generation is possible. The additional storage is supposed to be used for water use in Gujarat, and that water goes through the 250 MW canal head power house, and that cannot run the 1200 MW river bed power house.
The PIB PR than says: “Prior to clearance by NCA, the Environment Sub-group of NCA chaired by Shri Ajay Narayan Jha, Secretary (MoEF&CC) reviewed the implementation of Environment Safeguard Measures on May 01,2017 and after observing substantial progress, recommended Phase-II proposal of lowering down of the gates and impounding of water in the reservoir to FRL of EL 138.68 mts. The Environment Sub-group has also asked the State Governments to complete leftover works by June 30,2017.”
This is actually an admission of illegality. Firstly, “substantial progress” is a subjective term and an admission that work is far from complete. In any case, permission cannot be given pending completion of work, permission can only be given AFTER completing the environmental management tasks.
This lack of completion is further substantiated by the PR saying that the ESG on May 1, 2017 “asked the state governments to complete the works by June 30, 2017." This shows that the ESG permission was illegal. In fact, the SSP project requires 77.235 ha of additional forest land for submergence in Barwani district in Madhya Pradesh, for which it has yet to get the Forest Clearance. The Forest Advisory Committee that appraises such proposals was to consider the proposal in its meeting on June 15, 2017, but could not have cleared it since the proposal was not accompanied by any compensatory afforestation plan, compliance of Forest Rights Act, Wildlife Action Plan, Rehabilitation Plan, among others.
In any case, Forest Clearance comes in two stages and final clearance comes only about a year after the first stage clearance and the land cannot be used (submerged in this case) without getting final clearance.Gujarat is also illegally building Garudeshwar Dam and Statue of Unity downstream of the Dam, but has not applied for or received any environment clearance or ESG clearance.
Further, the PIB PR of MoWR on June 17, 2017 says: “The Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group chaired by Smt. G. Latha Krishna Rao, Secretary (MoSJ&E) reviewed the progress of R&R and the opinions received from Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs) of the States of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on June 16, 2017. The State Governments have assured to address all issues of Project Affected Families (PAFs) on priority basis in accordance with Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) Award, liberalized policies of the State Governments and Supreme Court Order dated February 08,2017.”
This is again admission that the rehabilitation work is not complete and “State Governments have assured to address all issues of Project Affected Families (PAFs) on priority basis”. This is an admission of failure. Without actually completing the land based resettlement as per NWDT award, that too at least six months prior to submergence, the RSG could not have given clearance for closure of gates. If it has given such a clearance, than that is clearly illegal.
It is clear from above that the decision of NCA, ESG and RSG is illegal and Gujarat should not have closed the gates. We hope the Judiciary will take immediate cognizance of this to restore some semblance of faith of the people in the courts as the track record of the courts even on R&R issues is far from confidence inspiring. The Uttarakhand flood disaster was at its peak on June 17, 2013, where dams played a major role as the SC appointed committee showed.
The decision of the central and state governments in closing the gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam seems like invitation to another major dam induced disaster. Let us see the SC comes to the rescue of the nation this as they did through the order dated Aug 13, 2013 in case of Uttarakhand.

Comments

TRENDING

What's behind public sector banks showing huge profits in 2nd quarter of 2022-23?

By Thomas Franco*  The quarter two results of the public sector banks (PSBs) appear to be noteworthy compared to a few years ago. All these banks showed good profits in the financial year 2021-22. Twelve PSBs made a net profit of Rs 25,685 crore in quarter 2 of FY23 and a total of Rs 40,991 crore in the first half of 2023. The combined profit of 12 banks in March 2022 was Rs 66,539 crore which was 110% more than 2021 – Rs. 31,816 crore. The Asset Quality Review of 2015 saw a surge in NPAs of PSBs jumping to Rs 8.96 lakh crore in March 2018 from Rs 2.17 lakh crore in March 2014. This was simply because the norms for NPAs were changed from 180 days to 90 days, and all restructuring of even genuine accounts was done away with. In 2018 NPA of SBI was 5.73% which has come down to 0.8% in Q2 of FY23. The NPA of Canara Bank has come down to 2.19% from 7.48% in Mar 2018. The same trend is seen in all public banks. Now SBI has seen a jump of 74% in its net profit, while Canara Bank’s profit is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Business back to normal? IIM-A survey says, sales expectations have sharply improved

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management’s Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES), which polls a panel of business leaders to find out their perception of slack in economy, including their inflation expectations, year-ahead cost expectations and the factors influencing price changes, such as profit and sales levels, etc., has said that the cost perceptions data indicates signs of moderation in price pressures. Carried out for September, the survey says, the cost pressure of the reporting firms has shifted from “very significant increase (over 6%) to moderate increase (3.1% to 6%).” It adds, “The percentage of firms perceiving over 10% cost increase y-o-y has declined. Over 21% of the firms in September 2022 round of the survey perceive that costs have increased very significantly (over 10%) – down from 26% recorded in August 2022.” Claiming to be a unique survey, in that it goes straight to businesses -- the price setters -- rather than to consumers or household

GoI's productivity linked incentives to corporates 'without independent analysis'

Counterview Desk  Wondering how prudent is the Government of India's (GoI's) Productivity Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme, EAS Sarma, former secretary, GoI, in a representation to Nirmala Sitharaman, Union finance minister, has said it appears to be nothing more than subsidy to the private sector without any responsibility. Giving a specific example against the backdrop of announcement of 50% subsidy covering the project cost of the Vedanta Group's decision to set up a semiconductor fabrication plant in Gujarat, in collaboration with Foxconn, Sarma says, "The total cost of this project is reported to be Rs 1,54,000 crore. 50% of this works out to Rs 77,000 crore." Stating that this creates the impression that the entire subsidy allocation for the semiconductor manufacturing sector would be appropriated by this company, Sarma says, "The Gujarat government did not lag behind in liberally announcing similar incentives for the Vedanta-Foxconn project. It offered 7

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Hindutva groups threat to peace, freedom: US diaspora groups tell FBI, other govt depts

By Our Representative  The Islamophobic and neo-Nazi ideology of Hindutva is a clear and present danger to peace and freedoms in the United States, a coalition of civil rights organizations told key officials of the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at a recent event in Edison, New Jersey. At the event titled United Against Hate, activists from American Muslims for Democracy (AMD), Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR) and Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC) made detailed presentations on this ideology of Hindu supremacism that is committing mass persecution of India’s Muslims and Christians and is rearing its ugly head in New Jersey as well as across the US. Attending the event were David S Leonardis, Special Investigator from the New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety; Michael E Campion, Chief of the Civil Rights Division for the US Attorney General's Office; and Jonathan R Norbut of the U.S. Dep

BJP poll gimmick? Bilkis Bano rape case 'pardon' vs Rajiv assassins' release

By Sandeep Pandey*  Supreme Court has released six convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. This was bound to happen as earlier AG Perarivalan was released in the same case, setting a precedent. Even though four of them are Sri Lankans but a popular Tamil sentiment favoured the release of these convicts which is why Tamil political parties supported this and resolutions were passed by different governments in Tamil Nadu to his effect.  Rajiv Gandhi paid the price of sending Indian Peace Keeping Force to Sri Lanka where it got entangled with Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eventually the whole operation ended up is a fiasco.  However, most importantly Sonia and Priyanka Gandhi and probably Rahul too do not have any objections to the release of these convicts. In fact, Sonia Gandhi played an important role in getting the death sentence of the only lady among the convicts Nalini commuted to life term through the Tamil Nadu Governor. Priyanka visited Nalini in Vellore Jail and

Diminishing returns: Hydro projects contribute less than 10% of India's power generation

Counterview Desk  Pointing out that India’s hydro generation remains around 10% for the last six years, the advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has said that power generation from hydropower projects continues to show diminishing returns, as has been the story close to three decades now. Yet, says SANDRP in a note, the Government of India continues to push large hydro by announcing a slew of additional subsidies for hydropower projects, more for political economy reason. In fact, attempts are being made to flog unviable hydropower projects with various kind of manipulations, illegalities and violations, it adds. Text : In last six years, from 2016-17 to 2021-22, India’s large hydropower projects (projects above 25 MW installed capacity) have contributed just around 10% of the total power generation, going as low as 9.68% in 2017-18. In fact, in three of these six years, large hydro contributed less than 10% and recovering only marginally in the rest,

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.