Sardar Sarovar Dam inaugurated, but the controversy continues…

On September 16, Medha Patkar, an activist known for heading the Narmada Bachao Andolan held a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ in unison with 40 other women at Barda village in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh.

The protestors alleged that the state government had shunned the interests of its people and released water from the Indira Sagar and Omkareshawar dams, but ensured that the Sardar Sarovar dam had water till optimum level on September 17, for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to dedicate it to the nation.

The protestors were forced to end the Jal Satyagraha on Sunday after the dam became the reality, but the NBA leaders said they would continue their agitation for proper rehabilitation of the SSP affected people.

“The drama of dedication of Sardar Sarovar Project to the nation on Prime Minister’s birthday was a complete failure. This was evident by the fact that except for Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, no other BJP ruled state’s CM turned up, unlike the announcement. About 2000 priests from Varanasi didn’t turn up either to perform aarti despite the announcement. We believe this is a victory of our struggle,” as reported in NDTV.com

The Sardar Sarovar Dam has been mired in controversy for the past 60 years and is the world’s second largest dam after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States.

Sources: HT, India Today 

Image source: HT

Modi inaugurates Sardar Sarovar Dam on his 67th Birthday

After many controversies and protests, Sardar Sarovar Dam was inaugurated today on the Narmada river by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his the occasion of his birthday.

The project would help take water to the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat, 700 km from the dam site, to fulfil the water needs of BSF soldiers, besides benefitting states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Besides Gujarat, the Narmada canal will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan.

The dam became a reality today in Kevadia, Narmada district after 56 years, when its foundation was laid by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961.The project was mired in many controversies and faced impediments from pro- and anti-dam activists, till finally the Supreme Court gave the nod for its construction in 2000.
The apex court, on October 18, 2000, in a 2-1 majority judgement, allowed construction of the dam up to the height of 138 metres subject to completion of the rehabilitation process. However, despite the court verdict, the construction of the dam continued to face hurdles on rehabilitation issue.

Meanwhile, miles away from the inauguration of the dam, thousands of people took part in ‘Jal Satyagraha’, a protest that requires standing barefoot in water. This was led by Narmada Bachao Aandolan founder Medha Patkar to raise the issue for the 40,000 families who will be displaced since their home will be submerged.

Sources: Economic Times, NDTV

Image Source: PIB

The Sardar Sarovar Dam: Engineering Miracle or Failure?

Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which is the world’s second largest dam on his 67th birthday, on September 17, 2017. He claimed that no other project in the world had faced so many obstacles and that the initiative had overcome numerous hurdles to finally be made. Present at Dabhoi, Gujarat, he dedicated the dam – which he called an “engineering miracle” – to the nation. The dam is supposed to provide power and water to 9,000 villages to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

At the same time, miles away in a village in Madhya Pradesh, thousands carried out a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ – a protest sitting barefoot in water. The reason for this protest? They believed that the water from the dam will displace 40,000 families because their homes will be submerged. The protesters are led by activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar. The protest had begun on Friday on the banks of Narmada at Chota Barda village in Dhar, about 300 km from Bhopal. The water level has been rising there constantly and has already submerged Nisarpur and Rajghat.

The highest embankment on a river in the country is built on the Narmada river and is expected to change the fortunes of Gujarat. However, since the foundation stone of this project was laid in 1961 by Jawaharlal Nehru, it has wrapped up in myriad controversies.

In September 1988, many environmentalists, social workers and scientists sent a memorandum to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asking him to reconsider environmental clearance granted to the project. Activists have since been demanding that the filling of water in the dam be stopped and the games opened so that the water level reduces.

Patkar, who had visited the areas expected to be submerged by the river project in 1985, submitted her critique of the project, saying that the people who were to be displaced had not been rehabilitated or informed properly about the issues. She also demanded that the water filling be stopped till rehabilitation is undertaken and compensation paid to the families, which however has not happened despite a Supreme Court order. She also took her case to the World Bank, which stoped funding the project in 1994. Modi himself has talked about the opposition to the construction of the dam from the World Bank. When the financial institution stopped giving money to the project, the temples of Gujarat donated money to it.

Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the apex court over the environmental issues posed by the dam and received a stay in 1996, although eventually in 2000, work was allowed to resume with some restrictions in October 2000. When her efforts failed, she led the NBA and undertook several fasts for weeks along with Baba Amte, another veteran activist.

Modi is right when he says that the project has progressed despite problems. In 2000, the SC allowed the government to increase the height of the dam to 90-metres, which kept increasing till it reached its current and final height of 138.68 metres.

The dam thus holds in its stead both expectations of development as well as the fear of displacement and the lack of compensation for the people of India. It also sits high as a symbol of the failure of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. While Patkar’s Jal Satyagraha movement carries on, so does some iota of rehabilitation and compensation, albeit slowly.

Sources: NDTV, India Today