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Dam issue: Govt admits norms not followed

Maheshwar is one of the 30 major dams being built on the Narmada. The NBA says it will submerge 61 villages and produce electricity.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 19:41 IST

Confirming a Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) claim, the Environment and Forest Ministry on Tuesday admitted that the work on the Rs 2,400 crore Maheshwar Hydroelectric Project at Mandleshwar in Madhya Pradesh has been suspended for non-compliance with environmental clearance conditions.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan had on Monday said that the action was taken after it served a legal notice on the Ministry taking objection to resumption of the work without framing comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation (R and R)programme.

"However, the project was not part of the Narmada Complex, but a separate work on a tributary of Narmada," Secretary Environment, Pradipto Ghosh said.

It is being executed by a private party and has nothing to do with the Narmada projects, he said.

"The government took this decision after receiving representations that environmental conditions relating to relief and rehabilitation were not being fulfilled and sending its officers to verify the complaints," he said.

The NBA had last month held a protest in New Delhi after which its delegation met an additional secretary in the Ministry of Environment, demanding that environmental clearance given for the project be revoked, as agricultural lands shown available for R and R were "imaginary and non-existent."

According to NBA activist Alok Agarwal, the official admitted that main files relating to the project had gone "missing" from the Ministry. He had promised to send a high-level delegation of the ministry to the area to study the record on the R and R front.

Now on June 9, the NBA said, MEF Joint Secretary R Chandramohan issued a directive to Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary observing that the construction work was started in violation of the conditions stipulated in the environmental clearance granted on May 1, 2001.

"The work will remain suspended till a comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation plan is submitted by the project authorities and the same is found to be implementable by the monitoring committee after its second site meeting," the order said.

Maheshwar is one of the 30 major dams being built on the Narmada. The NBA says it will submerge 61 villages and produce electricity at prohibitively high cost on account of a five-fold increase in project cost over the last 15 years. It claims corruption and wastage of public money on the project.

In all, the NBA has been challenging the government's record on the R and R front and organising protests in the submergence zones of the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat, besides the Maheshwar, Indira Sagar, Man and Veda dams in Madhya Pradesh.