An unnecessary burden on the people and State exchequer, says NAPM
Charges M.P. with destroying fertile land without compliance to eco-safety
NEW DELHI: The National Alliance of People Movements (NAPM) has urged the Centre to dissuade the Madhya Pradesh government from excavating huge canals for the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams through the very villages that fall in the submergence zone of the mega Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP).
Many villages, which are to be affected by these dams, stand to lose the rest of their land to the canal network, whereas the entire region is irrigated and does not require the canal network, they said, seeking protection of the ecology, agriculture and livelihoods of people in the valley.
Members of the Alliance, including Aruna Roy, Swami Agnivesh, Kuldip Nayyar and others who have visited the valley, said in a statement here on Monday that “having visited the agro-rich valley and seen the self-reliant livelihoods of the farmers and Adivasis, already threatened by the giant Sardar Sarovar Dam, we are appalled that the Madhya Pradesh government has embarked on the destructive agenda of excavating huge canals through the very same villages, already in the submergence area of the SSP. This is an unnecessary burden on the people and the State exchequer, the High Court of M.P. had ruled in November 2009.”
Expressing “shock and anguish,” the NAPM members charged the State government with pushing for destruction of fertile agricultural land without compliance with mandatory environmental safeguards, command area development and without assurance of prior rehabilitation with alternative land and livelihood to thousands of affected families.
They urged the Environment Ministry to issue directions to the State government to review the canal network and exclude the already irrigated areas, initiate dialogue with the river-bank farmers and Adivasis, minimise displacement and rehabilitate all the affected oustees.
“Narmada will be yet another litmus test for Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh and we await his immediate decision to stop the canal work, as per the latest order of the Supreme Court of January 27, 2011. We expect him to save thousands of hectares of irrigated land on the river bank, falling in the catchment area of Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar Dams. Both in Narmada and elsewhere, the Ministry must take a progressive view that agriculture is indeed a part of ‘environment’ and harm to the nation’s agriculture is a threat to the environment itself.”
The multi-disciplinary Pandey Expert Committee appointed by the MoEF in 2008 had pointed out glaring non-compliance with the various stipulations in the clearances and guidelines to the three dams, the NAPM members pointed out.
“The country has witnessed massive devastation of agriculture due to water logging, salinisation etc. in the case of many other irrigation projects across the country whenever the command area plans and works have been neglected. The Narmada Valley Development Agency must explain to the Court how and why is it quoting shockingly low figures of irrigated area in the command area, when as per the M.P. government’s own Detailed Project Reports of 1982-83 for both the dams, the existing area under irrigation was not less than 22,000-29,000 hectares.”
‘We are with the people’
“We stand in solidarity with the people, resisting the illegalities in the name of the canal work and wish to state that such non-participatory ‘development,’ is a farce on the Indian Constitution, people’s basic rights and rule of law itself,” the signatories to the statement said.