June 21, 2015

Fact Finding Team to Narmada–SSP Affected Areas Releases Report

THE ground level fact finding report from Sardar Sarovar Project Submergence Areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat titled ‘Drowning a Valley: Destroying a Civilisation” was released on June 13 at Indian Women’s Press Corps by the Fact Finding team who visited the villages on May 9-10, 2015. A 20 minute short film shot on the governmental decision to raise the height of the SSP from 121.92 mts to its full height of 138.68 mts by Anil Anand and Ramesh Pimple was also screened at the same. The meeting was addressed and report released by members of the team, Hannan Mollah (CPI(M)), Annie Raja (NFIW), Benoy Vishwam (CPI) and Soumya Datta (environmentalist). Hannah Mollah, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and former MP, stated that the work in progress at Sardar Sarovar Dam is in gross violation of the ruling of the Supreme Court and the recommendations of the Tribunal as detailed in the report. Annie Raja, general secretary of National Federation of Indian Women and a member of the central executive committee of the CPI, suggested that the Supreme Court of India constitute a monitoring mechanism to ensure the implementation of its recommendations in the light of the violations that the report documents. The central government and state governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat had blatantly lied in the Supreme Court regarding zero balance of displaced people to be rehabilitated, Soumya Dutta pointed out. He also informed that out of around 48,000 project affected families (PAF) not more 11,300 have received land based rehabilitation. The rest are still waiting for rehabilitation as ordered by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Many families living in the submergence zone have not even been counted in the project affected list, thus being excluded from any possibility of compensation and rehabilitation. Thousands are in constant fear of submergence with the coming monsoon. Benoy Vishwam, ex-forest minister from Kerala and a senior member of CPI, pointed out that rehabilitation of the affected families should be the primary concern of the government, but on the contrary it can be that the state and central governments are conspiring together to hide the reality to proceed with the project. The report was composed after the visit to the potential submergence areas, by a team comprising of Hannan Mollah, Annie Raja, Benoy Vishwom, Dr Sunilam – ex-MLA of Madhya Pradesh, Raj Kachroo – a well known hydrologist and Soumya Dutta – a well known expert on energy and climate issues. Due to last minute glitches, K C Tyagi and Raj Babbar could not join the team. Panchilal Meda (former MLA, Dharampuri, Dhar dist) and Ramesh Patel (sitting MLA, Badwani constituency) of Congress party also joined the team in Madhya Pradesh during these two days. The fact finding team visited villages and townships in Madhya Pradesh and hilly areas in Maharashtra, interacted with about 5-6 thousands of oustees from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and representatives from Gujarat. It could visit rehabilitation and resettlement sites in only MP, but recorded depositions of oustees from Maharashtra and Gujarat. It went through a number of documents, studies, reports and non-official accounts extensively. A major concern of the fact finding team was that the dam height of the Sardar Sarovar project is being raised to about 139 metres from the existing 121.92 metres, while thousands of oustees at the existing height are still to be rehabilitated. As a result of the increased height, the back water levels will go up, especially during high flood levels, inundating many villages and hamlets which were near or even not-so-near the river bank, forcing permanent displacement for several villages and temporary displacement of several more in monsoons with heavy rains. It has been reported by several local groups that many of these displaced families – now numbering in thousands – has not even been recognised as ‘displaced’, thus denying them any compensation or rehabilitation benefits. Copies of the report were distributed among those who attended the meeting. It was also agreed upon that the copy of the report be sent to the judicial bodies, governmental organisations like SC/ST Welfare Commission and concerned ministries.