On April 23rd 2010, the evictees of the Maheshwar dam won a recent landmark victory, when after hundreds of evictees squatted on the streets of Delhi and activists and evictees began an indefinite fast, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) ordered suspension of all construction work on the dam citing the negligible amount of resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) work done by the project promoters, in violation of the conditions of the statutory environmental clearance granted in 2001 to the private S. Kumar’s company SMHPCL which is implementing the Maheshwar Project.
The grounds of the order listed were that (a) Negligible R&R work has been done, (b) No agricultural land has been identified for rehabilitation purposes,(c) Rehabilitation work has been completed in only one village of the many villages facing submergence,(d) The backwater level submergence report is yet to be submitted and (e)Two wildlife sanctuaries have not been created.
However, after the order was issued after due process under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, tremendous pressure is being brought to bear on various sections of the government, construction lobbies and vested interests to revoke this order. The Chief Minister Madhya Pradesh has already met the Prime Minister asking him to revoke the order, and Prime Minister office has already called a meeting in this regard. As per the State Government of Madhya Pradesh, they will be meeting again this week. Therefore, it is imperative that progressive friends and supporters of the Narmada Bachao Andolan write to the Central Government asking it to stand firm by the Order.
As per the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, the affected villagers are to be provided agricultural land and other rehabilitation benefits. The statutorily binding conditions of the environmental Clearance granted by MoEF on 1 May 2001 require that a complete R&R Plan with details of agricultural land was to be submitted by December 2001. The clearance required that the R&R measures are implemented at the same pace as dam construction. However, in violation of these conditions over 80% of the construction work of the dam has been completed while a mere 5% of the 70,000 evictees have been rehabilitated till date. Even the full extent of submergence is yet to be known since the backwater survey has not been done.
Will the Order be observed and the evictees rehabilitated?
But instead of taking any steps about rehabilitation the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has asked the Prime Minister, Shri Manmohan Singh, to cancel the MoEF order so that work on the dam could be restarted. The Chief Minister claims that the dam is the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh as it would generate 7.2 lakh units of power per day starting in November 2010, and would also supply 360 MLD water for the urban areas of Indore and Dewas.
Misleading statements about benefits
The fact is that the power expected from the Maheshwar project is negligible (7.2 lakh units per day is less than 1% of the total demand of Madhya Pradesh of 1000 lakh units per day), and power generation cannot be started until the villages are fully submerged. The water supply project to Indore is separate and unconnected to the Maheshwar project. In any case, the capacity of the present pump house form which water is pumped to Indore from the Narmada is 261 million liters per day which is far in excess of the requirement of 220 million litres per day for the 20 lakh population of Indore.
State government gives unjust financial advantage to the S.Kumars company
It is also not comprehensible why the State government of MP is supporting and fronting for the SMHPCL and has mutated the lands and properties belonging to the Government worth Rs. 130 crores in the name of SMHPCL, and has also turned a blind eye to the willful default and fraud committed by the S.Kumars companies and is bent on allowing the private company to milk the public exchequer for the next 35 years, despite knowing that this project is unviable. It is clear that the evident collusion between the State Government and the private company and the hostility of the Chief Minister to the evictees and the NBA hangs together. The Chief Minister has made public threats in the media in the last one week, saying that it will "deal” with the NBA.
In view of the above, we ask you to urgently:
1. Sign the attached sample letter (see below) and e-mail and/or fax them to the Prime Minister asking him to stand firm on the MoEF order suspending work on the Maheshwar Dam till R&R work has been satisfactorily completed, and ensure its compliance.
2. Sign the attached sample letter (see below) and e-mail and/or fax it to Shri Jairam Ramesh, Minister, Ministry of Environment and Forest, asking him to remain committed to the compliance of the above order.
70,000 evictees of the Maheshwar dam count on your support,
Narmada Bachao Andolan
2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk, Khandwa, M.P
Tel: 0733-2228418, 09425394606. 09425928007
Link below to download the sampler letters:
- Sample letter: Prime Minister of India
- Sample letter: Minister of Environment and Forests