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  Asia-Pacific
Fate of 25,000 Families Hinge on Sept. 20 NCA Meet
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Sardar Sarovar Dam (under construction)

Narmada Control Authority (NCA) is likely to meet on Thursday on Sept. 20, 2007 in New Delhi to assess the current rehabilitation status of the 25,000 families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) reservoir, and to decide on completing the dam height by installing the gates.

Although the legitimate rehabilitation of more than 25000 families in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat is far from complete, yet the authorities have been pushing strongly to install the remaining 16 meters of gate.

The adivasi, dalit, fisher folk, peasant and farmer families are affected. Filling of the SSD reservoir began in 1994, increasing number of families have been affected, and living conditions worsened since then.

"The height of the dam cannot be increased until the rehabilitation of all the families affected at the full height of the dam (138.68 meters, with back water effect at the Maximum Reservoir Level) are completely rehabilitated, with cultivable lands and other amenities, as per the stipulations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) as well as the repeated orders of the Supreme Court" said senior Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Arundhati Dhuru.

"If a decision is taken in violation of the rights of the affected people, who, as you know, are struggling for more than two decades to ensure their livelihood security and dignity of life, it will be a disaster not only for the Narmada Valley but also affecting the integrity and legitimacy of our democratic polity and governing institutions and its purposes" remarked Arundhati.

A petition letter has been submitted to the Prime Minister's office and other officials as well.

The petition submitted at PMO, demands as following:

* The rehabilitation of more than 25,000 families should be completed, as per the law i.e. land for land rehabilitation and other amenities to all those who have legal rights for it, in their own state, before the dam is completed

* The height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam should be stayed (as per status quo) until and unless rehabilitation is completed in a just and appropriate manner

* Since the fishing families are loosing their livelihood, they should be provided legal rights for fishing in the reservoir and other amenities

* Illegal cash for land rehabilitation be banned, which is presently known as the Special Rehabilitation Package (SRP)

* The serious issues of land and livelihood of those who are already resettled, but not yet rehabilitated, in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh resettlement sites, should be redressed before the dam is completed

* The Monitoring bodies such as NCA and Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRA) should comprehensively and directly asses the ground realities regarding the implementation of rehabilitation, before coming to any conclusion regarding the status of rehabilitation

September 20 NCA meet will decide how much priority our elected representatives give to rehabilitation, livelihood security and dignity of life of over 25,000 families displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam reservoir.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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