On the day of his birthday, 17th September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, and dedicated this act to the nation. The dam - the second largest in the world - will submerge vast areas of land, displacing thousands of people as a result.
The project has faced decades-long resistance due to the devastating environmental and social impacts resulting from its operation. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a social movement that has mobilized large-scale protests against large dams on the Narmada River, affirms that its struggle will continue. They call on people to unite against this injustice, and to question development that serves corporate interests ahead of its own citizens.
Below is the press release from the NBA.
The Dedication of Sardar Sarovar Project Remains Incomplete #Don’tDedicateToMe
Narmada valley Challenges the Falsehood of Narmada Mahtosva
Narmada Bachao Andolan Postpones Jal Zameen Jeevika Haq Satyagraha
Badwani, September 17: We believe that the drama of dedication of the Sardar Sarovar Project to the Nation on Prime Minister’s Birthday was a complete failure. This was evident not only by the fact that except for Gujarat Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani, no one else turned up, as was announced that all BJP ruled CMs will participate. The grand aarti with 2,000 priests from Varanasi who were to come also didn’t turn up finally. We believe this is a victory of our struggles and massive criticism raised from all over the country, decrying this cruelty on his birthday, when 40,000 families are facing submergence in 192 villages of Madhya Pradesh and also in the resettlement sites of Gujarat and Maharashtra.
The ceremony is a failure since SSP remains incomplete, given that more than 50% of the canal networks is incomplete, so does the CAD and CAT and R&R of the PAFs in three states. The failure can’t be hidden because BJP has been in power in Gujarat for close to two decades now. 41,000 KMs long canal network is to be completed for realising the full potential and Prime Minister Narendra Modi can’t blame it on the opposition.
The benefits being touted by the Prime Minister is far fetched since they are all a bunch of lies and propaganda. The 56% electricity to Madhya Pradesh, even if it gets it, the question remains, does MP needs more electricity, and certainly not at the cost of destruction of 192 villages and 1 township. Is it worth it?
When Modi ji is claiming the credit for it, he needs to be reminded of the history that it was Jan Sangh and Madhya Pradesh which challenged the dam when it was first proposed under the banner of Nimad Bachao Andolan in 60s. The claim that for 56 years the dam was stopped, we need to look at the history, since, the foundation stone laid by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was not for the Dam of today, it was for a much smaller dam of 162 feet height. The present dam, a result of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) is 455 feet i.e. 138.68 meters high, declared by the Tribunal after 10 years long enquiry into the serious conflict among 3 riparian states, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The dispute got settled only after the NWDTA award, which till date hasn’t been fully complied with.
The Dam, claimed to be the country’s highest dam or world’s second biggest dam, is only on the basis of the volume of concrete going into the Dam. It is one of the biggest, no doubt and the decision on the same came in December 1979, the date of the Declaration of the Award (NWDTA), not in 1961 as claimed by Modi ji.
Even after the Award the work on the same was soon stopped and the clearance to it, following River valley guidelines of 1993 and Environmental Protection Act, 1986, came only in June 1987. The said clearance too was conditional since studies and plans on not less than 8 critical aspects of the project were not conducted nor completed till now. These conditions included rehabilitation, Flora and Fauna, seismic risks, catchment area treatment, command area development, downstream impacts among others.
In light of all these factual inaccuracies we can only say that, either they are ignorant or wilfully misleading the nation primarily for upcoming Gujarat elections, as has always been done by those in power in Gujarat. It is only as a result of our struggle that for the first time in the history of any dam project at least 11,000 families got land for land, even though 40,000 families remain to get their complete due as per NWDT award and SC judgements.
Sardar Sarovar dam for us is a testimony to the resolve of the people of narmada valley who have fought for more than three decades for justice, people centric development and their rights. On the other hand, it is also a monument of corruption, government’s apathy and complete disdain for the rule of law on part of the various government’s over the years and judiciary helplessness in implementing their own orders.
Our struggle is also for the farmers of the Gujarat and those on Kutch in whose name all the politics has been played over the years, since neither the canal networks has been completed nor the water is being given to the farmers or those on Kutch. The water is being diverted for coca cola factories and for the car factories and also for the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). It needs to be noted that 60% of Gujarat is under the influence of DMIC.
Thankfully, not everyone is convinced by this lie and drama, since people protested in Varanasi, Bhopal, Indore, Delhi, katni, and even in Baroda and Kevadia, Gujarat. Today, those protesting and exposing this lie were picked up from kevadia colony, right next to the dam, so much for the celebrations.
We would like to ask the Prime Minister that if the question of nation’s sovereignty is important and is invoked when World Bank withdrew funding for the Project in 1993 because of its feasibility and massive social and environmental impacts, then why does he remain silent when the Indian Constitution and rule of law has been violated at every step? Our national sovereignty has been impinged by our own, every time we refused to implement the NWDT award; everytime we didn't follow the SC directive on completion of R&R six months prior to submergence; and every time we denied the legal entitlements of the project affected families. Our national sovereignty is lost when we continue to sacrifice lakhs of poor farmers and adivasis and workers at the altar of development primarily to serve the interests of the corporate houses.
Hence, we wish to convey that our struggle will continue. Prime Minister may want to close the chapter, but it is not, since the people of the Narmada Valley haven’t received their full entitlement and not all is lost. Our loss will be a loss for the people fighting all across the country, who are opposing displacement, submergence and forcible evictions all in the name of development. We call everyone to join us in this struggle all across the country. The question of development at what cost and for whom and what kind of development remains unresolved and we will keep the battle going.
Medha Patkar, Kamla Yadav, Dayaram Yadav, Devram kanera, Mayaram, Mayaram Bhilala, Pannala Patidar, Rahul Yadav and others of Narmada Bachao Andolan
Please also refer to the factsheets and letters below.