Notice issued to Central and State Governments and private promoters
Yesterday, on the 31st of May 2012, the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi passed an important status quo order restraining the closure of the gates and the partial filling of the Maheshwar dam. The order was passed by a Bench of the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi headed by the acting Chairperson Justice A.S. Naidu and Expert member Dr. D. K. Agrawal in a case filed by two oustees of the Maheshwar dam – Shri Sanjay Nigam of Village Mardana and Shri Antar Singh Patel, Village Sulgaon of District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh, after hearing the arguments of the Counsels for the oustees and Ministry of Environment. The Green Tribunal also issued notice to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of Madhya Pradesh, S.Kumar’s group company Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited which owns the project and the Madhya Pradesh Power Generation Corporation Limited, which is responsible for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the oustees along with the company. The National Green Tribunal was constituted under the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, and has been given the jurisdiction to decide any sensitive matter relating to the environment.
It may be recalled that on the 1st of May 2012, the MOEF had issued an Order permitting the closure of gates and partial filling of the Maheshwar dam reservoir, after a Team of Officers from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had visited the area and submitted its report. The oustees challenged this Order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) dated 1st May 2012, in the Green Tribunal, on the ground that its implementation may result in the loss of life and livelihoods of thousands of people living in the river-side villages. The case was argued by Advocate Ritwick Dutta and Advocate Rahul Chowdhury
Submergence would inundate lands and houses without R&R and cause large scale death
In their Appeal the oustees pleaded that the Order of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests dated 1st May 2012 which permitted closure of the gates of the Maheshwar dam, and partial filling of the Maheshwar reservoir up to 154 meters, was based on false information provided by the District Collector Khargone and Superintending Engineer MPSEB that there would be no submergence of lands and houses at this level. The factual situation was that last year itself on the 27th of August 2011, many lands and houses of villages Sulgaon, Pathrad, Bhatiyan, Behgaon, Bhasunda, Mardana, Lepa, Amlatha, Lalpura, Bakawan and Teliyaon affected by the dam submerged when the private company building the dam surreptitiously closed the gates of the Maheshwar dam, and filled the dam up to 154 meters. The oustees pointed out in their Appeal that the submergence in villages Behgaon, Pathrad, Sulgaon, Bhatiyan, Bhasunda, in the monsoon of 2011 is recorded in the revenue records of the State and the letters of the revenue officials. Thus the certificate of the District Collector Khargone and Superintending Engineer MPSEB stating that there would be no submergence at 154 meters was false and contrary to the factual position and the revenue records of the State, and had been issued without application of mind, at the instance of the private promoters.
The oustees also pointed out in their Appeal that the Order of the MOEF dated 1.05.2012 permitting closure of gates and submergence up to 154 meters has been given without even ascertaining what the impact of the back-waters would be at 154 meters. The experience of illegal submergence in the monsoon of 2011 was that when the water level reached EL 154 meters at dam site, the submergence in the further reaches behind the dam went up to as much as 161 meters. In the densely populated villages of Maheshwar, such an un-slated submergence would cause the drowning and death of thousands of people, and lead to a great tragedy. The oustees argued that thus the implementation of the Order of the MOEF dated 1.05.2012 would cause violation of the precautionary principle and the Right to Life of the oustees, and irreparable damage to the life and livelihood of the people.
Submergence would stop drinking water supply of thousands of families
The Appeal also pointed out that the Order of the MOEF also ignored the fact that over 1650 pumps connected to pipe-lines going into the villages and the pucca pump houses housing the pumps and transformers powering these pumps are installed on the river-side at a level below 154 meters, which supply drinking water, water to meet the nistaar needs and irrigation supply for the fields for thousands of families of over 61 villages. Closure of the dam gates causing submergence up to 154 meters will submerge these pumps and transformers and stop the drinking water of thousands of families living in these villages, and also the irrigation supply causing the crops to dry up. The Appellants said that the Order of the MOEF dated 1.05.2012 allowing the lowering of the gates and submergence up to 154 metres, is in direct contradiction to the earlier order of the MoEF dated 19-5-2011, which prohibited the closure of gates and any submergence until satisfactory completion of R&R of the affected persons and review by the MOEF. The admitted status of R&R recorded by the Team of Officers is that only one of the 61 affected villages has been fully shifted, over 8000 out of over 10,000 families remain to be provided house-plots, and not even a single oustee entitled for land has been provided land till date.
No electricity generation at EL 154 meters
The report of the Team of Officers of the MOEF itself records that no electricity can be generated by the Maheshwar Project and transferred to the grid at 154 meters, as per the Central Electricity Authority. It may be pointed out that only two out of ten turbines have been installed in the Maheshwar dam, and the testing of the turbine was done last year itself. Thus, there is no rationale for permitting submergence up to 154 meters, and the only reason why the private company and State Government want to submerge the area is to force the villagers to flee without taking their R&R benefits.
The dam oustees and the Narmada Bachao Andolan welcome the admission of the case by the National Green Tribunal and the much needed relief provided by the stay order. The Appeal will be heard on 5th July 2012, after the vacations.
Alok Agarwal Antar Singh Patel Sanjay Nigam
Village: Sulgaon Village: Mardana
Bhagwan Birla Gajraj Singh Baluram Patidar Sewakram
Village: Bhatyan Village: Pathrad Village: Sulgaon Village: Bhtyan
Narmada Bachao Andolan
2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk, Khandwa, M.P.
Tel: 0733-2228318, 09425928007
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