Via a Press Release dated 17th June 2017, the 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 under the Chairmanship of Dr. Amarjit Singh, Secretary (WR, RD & GR) considered all aspects of environmental and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues.
Fifty-six years after the foundation stone for the Sardar Sarovar dam on the River Narmada was laid the Gujarat government got permission from the Centre to shut its gates. While 30 gates of the dam have been closed, it will open the gates of misery for more than 100,000 people, whose houses and land are likely to get submerged.
Besides the statement issued by noted activist Medha Patkar (viewed above) Narmada Bachao Andolan also issued a statement on 17th June. 2017 stating that;
“The level of falsehood involved in the decision taken by NCA on the closure of Sardar Sarovar gates is unprecedented.” Even the media has been spreading such lies about resettlement of Narmada affected families, even the the government cannot claim this: “A total of 46,840 PAFs have been resettled in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.”
On the 19th June 2017, supporters of Narmada Bachao Andolan laid siege to the entrance of Ministry of Water Resources protesting against the undemocratic and unjust decision of Narmada Control Authority to close the gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam, in its June 16th meeting. The decision paved the way for imminent submergence of 192 villages and one township of Madhya Pradesh this monsoon season when the full reservoir level will be achieved.
In past two months, despite many assurances from NCA, NVDA and govt. officials, including citing the Supreme Court order of February 2017, the decision had been taken without verifying actual ground conditions in Madhya Pradesh. The Andolan supporters strongly pointed out that the claims of the almost complete disbursement of the compensation, as per SC judgment, is not at all true since a number of applications are still pending infront of the Grievance Redressal Authority in Madhya Pradesh.
In these matters, the claims of the project affected families for disbursement of the appropriate amount for the land lost hasn’t been settled yet. It also needs to be noted that those who have received cash compensation, are yet to receive their due R&R entitlements for the loss of their houses and other common facilities, simply because 88 R&R sites in Madhya Pradesh are not complete. In such a situation, it is impossible for nearly, 40,000 families to move to these sites, which lack even most of the basic facilities, including drinking water.
|Graphic: Raj Kumar Singh
The Supreme Court order while bringing down curtains on the legal battle had brought relief to the 2,039 displaced families. However, those facing displacement to allow the dam to function at its full capacity say they have nowhere to go.
Down To Earth, an on the ground organization which has spoken to many locals shared a grim picture of those trapped on the ground with no place to go.
“In 2003, I was given Rs 40,000 and a plot on the floodplains of the Khooj rivulet ( a tributary of the Narmada) in compensation,” one Iqbal Reyaz from Dharampuri, who works as a daily-wage labourer, told DownToEarth. Five years ago, Reyaz decided to relocate to the rehabilitation colony, aptly named Dharampuri Basahat, literally Dharampuri resettled. He was the first one to build a house there. But it got submerged the very next year, during the floods of 2013. “No one compensated me for the loss of the new house, and I had to return to my old house,” Reyaz stated. “I was a fool to go there. Since the colony is in the floodplains, no one from my town dares to shift there,”.
But going by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award guidelines, the authorities should also provide a primary school for every 100 families, a drinking water well for every 50 families, a seed store for every 500 families, before initiating the eviction process. Barely a month left to meet the apex Court’s deadline, it is unlikely that the requirements would be met.
[Story to be updated. Last updated 20/06/17]