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Press Release – Eminent Citizens Write to Prime Minister Calling for Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in the National Interest

New Delhi, October 29 : Former National Advisory Council Members, retd bureaucrats, academics, artists, activists and others led by Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, in an open letter to Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi has urged him to call for a Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in the National Interest. Mr. Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the construction work at the Dam Site and Garudeshwar Weir on October 31, after the decision to raise the height of the dam was given on June 12th

The letters says, “the decision to raise the height of the dam further, will affect 44 additional village communities and one whole township, upto 214 kms long area in the Narmada basin, with 45,000 families. This will be done in violation of the NWDT Award and SC Order, since the resettlement and rehabilitation of the people are not complete yet on the ground.” They further added that, “the fact that completion of this particular project has been priority for Mr. PM, however, as the Prime Minister of the nation, he is expected to look after the welfare of all the citizens, and ensure that the lakhs of oustees, especially in Madhya Pradesh, belonging to the farming, fishing and working classes do not face destitution.” 

They urged that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given assurance to the Supreme Court in 2006 that as per law, all the project affected people will be rehabilitated first and then only the dam will be completed. Mr. Modi is bound both by virtue of his good office and by law to keep up this promise. It is in this light that Prime Minister, should call for a discussion and review of the ground situation on resettlement and rehabilitation in the larger national interest.

To,

Shri Narendra Modi,

The Prime Minister of India,

Date: October 28th, 2014

Subject : Calling for a Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in National Interest

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

We are writing this letter with much agony and enormous concern regarding the formidable impact increase in height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada will have. It will adversely impact the lives of adivasi (tribal) & rural communities, submerge precious natural resources – land, water, tree cover, fish and kill the pure and pious river, Narmada. Narmada – home to the oldest of human civilizations with rare archeological monuments. We request your personal attention and intervention to to stop this wanton destruction.

We know and most of us have witnessed the fact that at the present height of the dam, 122 m, itself there are 35,000 and more families residing in the submergence area and hence yet to be rehabilitated. The decision to raise the height of the dam further, erecting 17 meters high gates, to the full reservoir level, i.e. 138.68 meters, will affect 44 additional village communities and one whole township, upto 214 kms long area in the Narmada basin, with 45,000 families. Submergence of highly fertile agricultural land, thousands of houses, wells, schools and other amenities, temples, mosques and at least a million trees, should not be imposed without full, fair and legal rehabilitation. The adivasis, dalits and others in the Valley should not be evicted, and their property should not be evicted without complying with the Supreme Court’s directive and NWDT Award. Moreover this human tragedy and man-made disaster cannot ever be acceptable. 

We are further informed that immediately after the decision was announced by the NCA on 12th June, the oustees and their representatives met the concerned Ministers at Delhi and appraised them of all the facts, ongoing legal and judicial processes, pending litigation, inquiry into corruption and non-compliance of the orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities; urging them to put the decision on hold. The Ministers were not fully aware of the project and the ground realities but assured review of the matter. 

We realize that the decision is to keep the gates open for the time being, however, erecting the gates itself is akin to raising the height of the dam, which is to be unlawful. The backwater levels now shown to be reduced, after 30 years since the original surveys before 80’s, are not scientifically drawn and hence any construction beyond the present height cannot be pushed today as drowning and destruction of houses and fields in the large farming belt of Nimad, M.P. has also begun since last few years and will be worse. 

We are not unmindful of the fact that completion of this particular project has been priority for you. However, as the Prime Minister of the nation, you are now expected to look after the welfare of all the citizens, and ensure that the lakhs of oustees, especially in Madhya Pradesh, belonging to the farming, fishing and working classes do not face destitution. You must be aware that your predecessor, former Prime Minister Shri. Manmohan Singh Ji, committed to the Hon’ble Supreme Court in 2006 that rehabilitation, as per law, would precede any further construction and your are certainly bound both by virtue of your good office and by law to keep up this promise.

Dear Prime Minister, we hope you are aware of the fact that Justice Jha Commission, appointed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh is investigating thousands of land registries which are forged and fake, and also corruption in payment of grants to thousands, allotment of house plots and construction at the resettlement sites. Fraud in all these has been proved, and the final report is soon likely, that crores of rupees are wasted and rehabilitation is far from complete. 

We are also informed that the Report by the expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment till 2012 clearly concluded that most of the conditions related to the severe impacts on the natural resources in the Narmada Valley and compensatory measures are not fulfilled. Those include impacts on the health, forest, fisheries, seismically risky region, the catchment and siltation as also the command area in Gujarat. Without compliance on these, the Dam cannot and should not be pushed ahead, as you will agree. 

You are certainly aware that the waters in Sardar Sarovar are also being used for the industries and new projects, such as Coca Cola plant (30 lakh liters/day), the car industry in Sanand alone (60 lakh liters/per day) and many others. Also that a few lakh hectares of land in the command area is now being diverted and reserved as industrial areas. All this indicates the change in the original plan and that there is absolutely no urgency to raise the Dam at the cost of people and the nature. Let the people receive all entitlements and natural losses be prevented and mitigated and then the Dam can be raised to completion. 

You may have also been informed that the oustees in the SSP-affected areas are now legal owners of the acquired lands and houses, as per Section 24(2) of the recently passed “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013”; since they continue to remain in possession of the acquired properties, till date. It would thus be unlawful to continue with further construction that is bound to lead to submergence and interference with the property and human rights of the owners.

We, therefore, urge you Sir, to hold a multi stakeholder consultation at the earliest, involving the people in the Valley, struggling since decades who have made a difference to the struggle by the Project affected people for their rights, across India. We expect that you will take a new democratic initiative, to know the truth and respect law, democracy, human values and human rights.

We call upon you to withhold the decision to raise the height until such a review exercise is concluded, and not to carry out any construction at the dam site. 

We hope you will take a just and fair decision and respond to this appeal at the earliest.

Thanking you,

Yours’ Sincerely,

  1. Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court 
  2. Aruna Roy, Former National Advisory Council member
  3. Swami Agnivesh, Bandhu Mukti Morcha
  4. Admiral (Retd.) L Ramdas, Chief of Naval Staff
  5. Madhu Bhaduri, IFS (Retd.)
  6. Dr. B.D. Sharma, IAS (Retd), Fomer Commissioner SC/ST Commission 
  7. Harsh Mander, IAS, former National Advisory Council Member
  8. Ramaswamy R. Iyer, IAS, Secretary, Government of India (Retd.)
  9. Pushpa Bhave, Feminist, Socialist, Maharashtra 
  10. M. Illango, Chairperson, National Fishworkers Forum 
  11. Prof. K.B. Saxena, IAS (Retd.) Secretary to Government of India
  12. Sandeep Pandey, Asha parivaar, Magsaysay Awardee 
  13. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy,  Jawahar Lal Nehru University
  14. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development, New Delhi 
  15. Prof. Jean Dreze, former National Advisory Council Member 
  16. Arundhati Dhuru, Uttar Pradesh State Advisor to Supreme Court Commisioner on Right to Food 
  17. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  18. Kumar Ketkar, Political Analyst
  19. Suhas Borkar, Working Group on Alternatives
  20. Sumit Chakravarty, Editor, Mainstream 
  21. Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan Odisha
  22. Prof. Rohan D’souza, Jawaharlal Nehru University  
  23. Dr. Sunilam, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti MP
  24.  Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
  25.  Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation
  26.  P ChennaiahAndhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU)
  27.  Jatin Desai, Journalist, Mumbai 
  28. Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka
  29. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
  30. Suhas Kolhekar, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
  31. Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch
  32.  Ashish Ranjan and Kamayani Swami, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (Bihar) 
  33. Rohit Prajapati and Anand Mazgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat 
  34. Swati Desai, Editor, Bhumiputra
  35. Jyoti Bhai Desai, Senior Gandhian
  36.  Vilas Bhongade – Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra;
  37. Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurium Iyakkum , Tamilnadu
  38. Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum

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