Narmada Bachao Andolan
2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk, Khandwa, M.P.
Press Release : 4.05.2010
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) wrote to PM Manmohan Singh today expressing appreciation of the decision taken by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on 23rd April 2010, to suspend the work on the Maheshwar Hydel Project, M.P.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) wrote to PM Manmohan Singh today expressing appreciation of the decision taken by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on 23rd April 2010, to suspend the work on the Maheshwar Hydel Project, M.P. to ensure the rehabilitation and resettlement of the oustees of the Maheshwar Project. NBA’s letter was triggered by the landmark order issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) giving direction to the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd (SMHPCL) to immediately suspend ongoing work on the Maheshwar Project due to non-compliance of conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance dated 1.05.2001.
The letter countered the claims of the Chief Minister of MP, Shri Shivraj Chauhan, who has written a public letter to the PM describing the MoEF decision as “arbitrary” and is seeking its revocation. The NBA cautioned that the information provided by the Chief Minister was “misleading,” and his letter was merely an attempt “to cover-up the failure of his government to comply with the conditions of the environmental clearance and to ensure the rehabilitation and resettlement of more than 70,000 oustees.”
NBA’s letter reminded the PM that the statutory environmental clearance granted by the MoEF to the private company, SMHPCL, for the Maheshwar Project made SMHPCL solely and fully responsible for rehabilitation and resettlement of all dam oustees. The clearance also specified that it can be revoked at any time by the Ministry if it was found that the company is not complying with the conditions. These conditions stipulated that the affected villagers have to be rehabilitated as per the R & R Policy of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, which provides for distribution of agricultural land to the oustees and other rehabilitation benefits. The Clearance required that a complete R&R Plan with details of agricultural land was to be submitted by December 2001, and that the R&R measures are implemented at the same pace as dam construction. However, in violation of these conditions, a detailed R&R Plan had not yet been submitted to the Ministry, and around 80% of the construction work of the dam has been completed while a mere 5% of the 70,000 oustees have been rehabilitated. It was on the basis of these glaring violations of the conditions of the Environmental Clearance that the MoEF issued the order suspending further construction of the dam until measures to fulfil these conditions can be implemented.
NBA’s letter pointed out that the Chief Minister himself has not contested any of these facts on the ground, in fact, his own letter to the MoEF dated 24.11.2009 confirmed that only 3% of the oustees have been rehabilitated and resettled, and even these have not been provided any agricultural land. Reminding the PM that due process had been followed by the MoEF, the NBA termed the order as “well-considered” and noted that the latest order was issued by the MoEF only after the company was given a Show Cause notice earlier and provided with full opportunity to explain itself and rectify the situation on the ground.
False claim by CM
The NBA also contested the Chief Minister’s claims that large amounts of power would be foregone by the state, if the MoEF order were to be followed. Noting that the MoEF order does not cancel the entire project, but only suspends it till R&R measures can be satisfactorily completed, the NBA observed that no power generation would be possible without full submergence of the affected villages. Furthermore, the letter termed the power output of the dam (7.2 lakh units per day, as per the CM’s letter) as “negligible”, considering that it was less than 1% of the state’s daily power requirement of 1000 lakh unit per day.
The NBA also contested the chief minister’s claims that Indore city will be denied 360 million liters (MLD) per day of water because of the suspension of the work on the Maheshwar Project. Pointing out that the Narmada water supply scheme providing Narmada water to Indore has been functioning since 1978 and is not part of the Maheshwar project, NBA noted that the current water supply to Indore city already far exceeds the current water requirements of the city.
NBA also protested the allegations made against it by the Chief Minister in his letter to the Prime Minister. Calling them “completely false and fabricated”, NBA noted that similar allegations had been made earlier by the SMHPCL against them in a defamation suit filed by the SMHPCL in Mumbai City Civil Court in 2001. However, “when called upon to substantiate their allegations and lead the evidence, the SMHPCL withdrew their affidavits and witnesses, and thus the defamation suit against the NBA was dismissed.” Furthermore, the letter noted, “the Hon’ble Supreme Court also considered such false allegations in a similar case in 2007 and passed a Judgment upholding the role of the NBA in protecting the rights of the oustees.”
Eight MPs from seven political parties support MoEF order
In another important development eight Members of Parliament from seven different political parties also wrote to the PM, expressing their support for the MoEF order for immediate suspension of construction work at the Maheshwar dam site till the dislocated people are rehabilitated. The letter says that the MPs were ‘shocked’ to learn that Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan ‘instead of welcoming this opportunity to complete the rehabilitation and resettlement of the dislocated’ had written to the prime minister seeking revocation of the environment ministry order. The letter is signed by Brinda Karat (CPI-M), D. Raja( CPI), Brajesh Pathak (BSP), Abani Roy (RSP), Barun Mukherjee (FB), Birendra Prasad Vaishya (AGP) and Kamal Akhtar and Vir Pal of the SP.
Alok Agarwal, Chittaroopa Palit, Radheshyam Patidar, Bhagwan Birla, Parvati bai