The Centre on Monday ordered the suspension of construction of the Maheswar dam in Madhya Pradesh citing non-compliance of environmental norms.
Asking the project proponent, Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd of S Kumar's group, to stop the work at the dam site, the environment ministry said the reply to its show cause notice was "not satisfactory" and that rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) steps were not adequate.
It noted out of 22 villages that face submergence threat, rehabilitation was completed in only one village named Jalud.
Furthermore, the letter also stated that the backwater level calculation report of the Central Water Commission (CWC) was yet to be be submitted, while two promised wildlife sanctuaries were not created.
Exercising its powers under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, the Ministry directed the project proponent to suspend the ongoing construction work at the site with "immediate effect till a satisfactory compliance report (in the matter) is submitted and the same is found to be implemented by this Ministry."
Expressing relief at the order, activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), who were on an indefinite hunger strike against the project, ended their fast today.
"We are happy with the letter issued by the Environment Ministry. We are committed to continue our struggle and ensure the order is fully implemented and each and every project-affected family gets its full entitlements and is treated with dignity and respect," said NBA activist Alok Agrawal.
The Maheshwar dam is one of the large dams being built on river Narmada and around 70,000 peasants, fishermen and landless workers in 61 villages will be affected by the project.
As per the government's R&R Policy, the affected villagers are to be provided agricultural land and other rehabilitation benefits before the construction of a project can be started.