ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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Narmada Project and Peoples Right to Life

QUITE some time has passed since we sent a memorandum to the prime minister, raising fundamental questions about the Narmada Project. Though our memorandum successfully roused the conscience of the nation, the fact is we have received no official response from the prime minister's office In the meanwhile, many new facts have come to light which reinforce our con- cerns over the issues we had raised (1) A report from the chairman of the rehabilitation sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) confirms that they have been unable to find enough land to rehabilitate the oustees from the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Quite obviously it will, therefore, be virtually impossible to rehabilitate persons from the Narmada Sagar Project (NSP). (2) An independent analysis of the cost-benefit of SSP, carried out by Vijay Paranjpye for Intach, reveals just what we had feared. The actual cost:benefit ratio is much lower (1:1,17) than that presented by the authorities to the Planning Commission (1:1-84). The figures-used by Paranjpye are taken from government files and cannot be repudiated. (3) Reports from the Tkta Institute of Social Sciences (T1SS) indicate that even in the 'model' rehabilitation village of Parvete the conditions of the oustees is miserable. Mortality rates art already higher here than that prevailing in villages which have not yet been shifted. Clearly if the authorities have been unable to deliver what they promised to even one village, under the full glare of publicity, then their avowed ability to handle a deluge of migration must be considered as highly suspect. (4) Though the Planning Commission accorded clearance to the SSP on October 5, 1989, this clearance itself is conditional. Not only does it reiterate the earlier, unfulfilled conditions, it adds to them by insisting on 'planning the micro- network of canal systems' and completion of the studies and plans for drainage and ground water balance. This work is incomplete for over 80 per cent of the command area, yet crores are being poured into the project. (5) Despite vehement denials by the authorities, it has emerged that the World Rank has in fact asked for an economic reappraisal of the Narmada Project. Similar demands for reappraisals have cropped up at other dam sites in the world, notably at Brazil where tribal Indians are at the forefront of the battle to save rainforests. (6) Last but not least, the secretary, department of environment, has unequivocally expressed his dissatisfaction with the progress of environmental studies, though this assessment lies at the very heart of the conditional clearance given.

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