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Narmada dam ball in SC court

Efforts to resolve the Narmada imbroglio failed to make headway at the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority here prompting the Centre to lob the ball to the Supreme Court for suspension of work on the dam till displaced persons are properly rehabilitated.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 20:54 IST

No consesus as CMs fail to find answer
Efforts to resolve the Narmada imbroglio failed to make headway at the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority here prompting the Centre to lob the ball to the Supreme Court for suspension of work on the dam till displaced persons are properly rehabilitated.

 A three-hour meeting of the Committee, convened by Union Water Resources Development Minister Saifuddin Soz in the wake of the protests by the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan, ended in a tie with Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan opposing any move to check the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, touted as Gujarat’s lifeline.

Soz, alongwith Environment and Forest Minister A Raja and Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, too brought out a separate resolution based on the findings of a Central study team stating that the rehabilitation and resettlement of project affected persons in Madhya Pradesh has “not been to the satisfaction of the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court”.

“Hence, it is open to the Supreme Court to consider whether construction of the dam should be temporarily suspended till such time as rehabilitation and resettlement of the project affected families is done in consonance with its directions.

Minister of Water Resources has not ordered suspension of the construction work of the dam”, a statement from Soz said. The Water Resources Minister said in his capacity as the Chairman of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority, he will submit a report to the Prime Minister reflecting the points of view expressed at the meeting including those of the Chief Ministers.

Meanwhile, NBA leader Patkar, currently in a city hospital here, announced that she would continue with her hunger strike and urged the Prime Minister to take a decision on the issue at the earliest.

An official statement said the meeting of the Review Committee of the NCA fully recognised that the Sardar Sarovar Dam needs to be constructed as it will provide several benefits to the people in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

“However, at the meeting, there was no consensus on the issue whether construction of the dam should be suspended in view of the fact that rehabilitation and resettlement of the project affected families in Madhya Pradesh has not been to the satisfaction of the requirements laid down by the Supreme Court”, it said.

Emerging out of the meeting, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said his Government was making the best efforts to rehabilitate the project affected persons and favoured simultaneous construction of the dam and the rehablitation work.Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said he favoured suspension of the work on the dam as rehabilitation was not complete in Madhya Pradesh.

 

Modi sees red, announces 51-hour fast
HT Political Bureau
THE NARMADA Dam controversy has changed colour — from humanitarian to political — with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi announcing a 51-hour fast at Ahmedabad’s Sabarmati Ashram. The provocation: the Centre’s proposal to suspend construction on the project, over which sentiments in Gujarat differ from those of Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

Modi’s decision to replicate Patkar’s protest is obviously aimed at gaining political mileage in his state (ahead of the 2007 Assembly polls) at the expense of the Congress that leads the coalition at the Centre. The battle transcends, in fact, to other states, including the Congress-NCP governed Maharashtra and the BJP-controlled MP and Rajasthan.

These are the regions that stand to benefit from the project. And water, needless to say, can arouse emotions beyond imagination.

At the meeting with Gujarat MPs and leaders on Sunday to discuss further the question of raising the dam’s height — which could not be resolved in the Narmada Review Committee discussions on Saturday — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have to walk a tightrope. Not only is the Congress in power in Maharashtra and Delhi, where the issue is sought to be thrashed out, it also remains the major opposition in Rajasthan and MP.

In the Catch-22 situation, the Centre would need all its guile and persuasion to evolve a seemingly difficult consensus in which Patkar’s concerns too would have to be taken into account. But the numbers clearly are against Patkar, who wants people displaced by the project rehabilitated properly.

Her contention is that raising the dam’s height from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres could displace 30,000 additional tribal families. Modi’s rejoinder: if the height is not raised, the country would lose 1,450 MW of power and as many as 4,000 villages of Gujarat and Rajasthan would be denied water.

Inevitably, the three-and-a-half hour meeting of the NRC turned out to be stormy. Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz’s proposal of temporarily suspending the construction was stiffly opposed by BJP CMs Modi, Shivraj Chouhan (MP) and Vasundhara Raje (Rajasthan) while Environment Minister A. Raja and Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh supported it. Later, an angry Modi dubbed the Centre’s stand as “anti-development”.