For Immediate Release 17th February, 2010
MoEF’s Environmental Appraisal Committee and Dr. Pandey Committee’s views indicate non-compliance on CAD Plans in Narmada Projects
MoEF must issue immediate stop work orders on ISP-OSP canals
It is in response to the interim order 25th February, 2010 of the Apex Court in the case related to the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar canals (Medha Patkar vs Government of Madhya Pradesh) that the Union Ministry of Environment of Forests finally held an ‘extra – ordinary’ meeting of the Expert Appraisal Committee of River Valleyand Hydroelectric Projects to consider the Final Report by Dr. Devender PandeyCommittee of Experts on Assessment of Command Area Development Plans for ISP and OSP Canals in Madhya Pradesh
While the Ministry was directed by the Court to take a decision within 4 weeks after the Pandey Committee’s Report on the CAD Plans (the deadline for the Ministry’s decision being May 7th, 2010) since no action was forthcoming from the Ministry, the Court finally directed it to submit its decision by February 15th, by another order dated 27th January, 2011. It is in response to this latter order that the above mentioned meeting was held and Minutes put up on the website of the Ministry yesterday.
Till the time this is being written, the Ministry has neither filed the above Minutes nor the Ministry’s opinion / decision before the Supreme Court’s Special Benchon Narmada headed by Justice J.M. Panchal, with Justice Deepak Verma and Justice B.S Chauhan.
Perusing through into the Minutes, Narmada Bachao Andolan, along with its supporters and experts conclude that the EAC has put up not less than 18 conditions including:
- Submission of Detailed CAD Plan – yet to be preparedand schedule of its formulation and implementation before the Ministry for its final approval.
- Submission of Environment Action Plan to address issues such as health impacts, groundwater table rise, possibility of development of saline and alkaline condition, seepage from the unlined irrigation conveyance network, contamination of natural streams due to mixing of agro-chemicals laden surface runoff, occurrence of vector borne diseases, loss of Bio-diversity, pollution, impact on aqua-culture related to irrigation in the areas.
- Target Plans for leveling of command area.
- Financial details and availability of funds.
- Comprehensive plan for training to the WUAsfor water management and rotational water distribution and their role and responsibility for the same and its implementation schedule.
- Availability of electricity supplyinfrastructure to energize the farmer’s wells for ground water extraction for conjunctive use of water and ensure power for lifting water.
- Plan for providing support to farmers for pumping for conjunctive use of water.
The other findings, as observations and recommendations of the Pandey Committee based on time to time submissions by the Narmada Valley Development Authority, Madhya Pradesh also indicate that the plans related to irrigation – land acquisition – excavation – release of water and its distribution is some what covered in the plans submitted to the Pandey Committee, but neither the in-depth study reports nor the plan for environmental protective measures related to bio-diversity, health impacts, water logging and salinization have been furnished for necessary approval. The EAC Minutes reveal a shocking fact that the on-farm development work is planned and executed only on 1% of the command area of both the Projects. There is no Micro – level planning beyond 1% of the command area and detailed planning for ancillary infrastructure such as roads, agriculture demonstration farms, ware housing etc. is yet to be undertaken. It may be noted that such detailed CAD Plans and its approval form MoEF was mandatory under the environmental clearance granted to each of these two large projects (ISP & OSP) in 1987 & 1993 respectively. It is thus obvious that neither Dr. Devender Pandey Committee nor the EAC has approved the command area development plans and hence even the Environment Ministry cannot approve the same.
It is clear that Command Area Development has not been taken up with the requisite seriousness ad sensitivity, with which it should have been, despite numerous experiences of severe impacts as also elaborate guidelines and directives from the Planning Commission and MoEF. This reeks of callousness towards the serious impacts on the farmers and the agriculture, which is people’s only source of livelihood as well as the natural resources and ecology of the vast area. The state government authority (NVDA), the monitoring body (Narmada Control Authority) as well as the MoEF itself has not fulfilled its duty under the law including the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
The Pandey Committee as well as EAC has also stated that the pari passu principle must be followed in linking the CAD works as protective measures and the work on canals. The committee has also observed several adverse impacts on command area as stated in the EIA and EMP documents already presented before it. The ball therefore, is in the MoEF’s Court which is expected to observe its statutory duty and protect the best of agriculture and horticulture in the canal affected and command area villages, considering it as ‘environment. It is at least now that respecting the final judgement of the Madhya Pradesh High Court (Nov 2009) and the interim orders of the Supreme Court (Feb 2010), the MoEF must take an immediate decision, to avoid further contempt of Court and incredible delay that is already causing immense harm and injustice to people and nature.The Ministry must immediately issue stop-work orders by invoking its powers under the Environment Protection Act, at least until the command area development plans are prepared, submitted, approved as well as executed.
NVDA’s data and the Expert Committee’s conclusion on irrigated command area challenged:
The affected farmers ands NBA have constantly been raising the paramount issue of saving thousands of hectares of fully-irrigated farm lands on the bank of the river Narmada, which is being acquired and excavated day in and day out for the largely unplanned and unapproved canal network of both these projects. In reality, these villages need no irrigation since as per the Government’s own DPR’s, not less than 22,000 – 29,000 ha of land in the command area was already irrigated in 1982-83 itself and the irrigated area today would be more than 50,000 ha in the acse of each Dam. The M.P. Govt. is deliberately quoting very low figures of irrigation and misleading the Court and authorities. Instead of complying with the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s order to review the canal network in the irrigated areas so as to protect agriculture, minimize displacement and save the state exchequer, the Government is continuing with acquisition of the best lands with numerous illegalities and is evicting people from their only source of livelihood, without prior rehabilitation. As in the case of SSP, the river-bank farmers fear that once they are displaced, the water would be diverted to the industries to come up in the Nimad region
It is also absolutely shocking that a large chunk of the canal network is falling in the directly draining catchment area of the Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar dams, which will destroy the reservoir capacity, due to siltation. MoEF, which is monitoring Sardar Sarovar should have taken due cognizance and action which it obviously has not done so far. Without prior command area plans and timely execution, severe impacts of water logging and salinizatiion are also bound to occur, which has already begun in quite a few villages, in both ISP and OSP command.. As rightly pointed out by Planning Commission member Dr. Mihir Shah, neglect of CAD would seriously defeat the already limited benefits of canal-based irrigation.
Game of Numbers: No plans, no data on the canal-affected lands & families; no rehabilitation
It is equally shocking that even after years of lapses, the full-fledged data on total number of lands and families to be affected by the ISP and OSP canals is still not ready and available with the state and central agencies. This is seen from the fact that10,000 hectares is projected time and again as the figure of land to be affected, but without details of the impact of the minor network, which it is known takes a greater toll of land than the main and branch canals. The number of canal-affected families is projected as 174 and 391 villages in ISP and OSP respectively, while it is claimed that the canal water is to benefit not less than 500 villages in each case. Logically, wherever reaches the water, there goes the canal and wherever goes the canal, land will have to be acquired and excavated. Hence this disparity is illogical and unacceptable. NBA has challenged this Game of Numbers before the Supreme Court.
NBA has also assessed through field surveys the fact that the interim order of the Apex Court on rehabilitation dated 5-5-201 and certain directives of the High Court, upholding the state’s Rehabilitation for Narmada Projects as applicable to canal affected has also been grossly violated. The Government is infact misinterpreting and making a mockery of the Court’s orders on rehabilitation and has not provided cultivable land to a single oustee till date! Both in the case of the SSP and canal-oustees the MP Govt. is making illegal and invalid offers and in many cases, as per the state government’s own affidavit before the Apex Court filed in 2000, there is no cultivable land, free of encroachments. This is causing serious violation of the rights of oustees already facing deprivation. The CAFs, with even more than 60% land holding lost to the canals are not offered good cultivable land as has been directed by the Court. There has been unbelievable level of cheating, pressuring and manipulation of the process of land acquisition and rehabilitation, which is being challenged by the oustees themselves, with Narmada Bachao Andolan, at various fora, including the project and monitoring authorities as well as the Courts. Further hearing of the case by the Supreme Court is to take place within the next few days.
Budhbai Lalchand Patidar Mohan Medha Patkar
(Village Mandil) (Village Nandra) (Village Bagda)
Contact Ph:09423965153 / 09179148973