The Narmada Bachao Andolan which has long protested against the increase in height of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat before rehabilitation of people living in submergence areas, has decided to act fast after the Narmada Control Authority gave an approval to increase the height of the dam by 17 metres.
Actvist Medha Patkar, who has been long associated with the issue, told International Business Times India Edition that the group has written to Prime Minster Narendra Modi along with other ministers including those in charge of environment and social justice to discuss the issue.
"We have written to them to seek a meeting and let our voices be heard. We want to know if they want to include our concerns or move ahead without hearing us," Patkar said.
On Thursday, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) gave the green signal to the eight-year-old proposal to increase the height of the dam from 121.9 metres to 138.7 metres. The decision was announced by Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel.
The main contention of activists is that the government has not made arrangements to rehabilitate people before seeking to increase the height of the dam. "We do not want the project to be scrapped, but they must at least rehabilitate the people,which is mandatory by law. More than 2.5 lakh people are still living in the submergence areas that will be affected if the height of the dam is increased," Patkar told IBTimes India.
Asked whether she supported the benefits the project is expected to bring to farmers, Patkar said, "The impact of the dam waters will be felt mostly in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, while most of the water will flow to Gujarat and the tail-end will go to Rajasthan. The original plan for the dam has now been changed and will mainly benefit industries, not farmers ".
Gujarat-based activist Mallika Sarabhai also echoed Patkar's concerns. "Basically, the waters haven't reached where they should have because the subsidiary canal network has not been expanded in twelve years and because so much has been diverted to industry. The human suffering and loss of homes, villages and habitat is not justified at all by the meagre benefits of the increase," Sarabhai told IBTimes India.
Patkar said that Narmada Bachao Andolan is taking a collective decision to chart out the steps ahead.
Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati told PTI that the decision was taken following a report by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, stating that the ministry was "100% satisfied" and that all responsibilities were taken.
BJP's chief spokesperson for Maharashtra Madhav Bhandari told IBTimes IN: "We have always been pressing for the rehabilitation of those living in affected areas, but because the Narmada Dam case was a tripartite issue between the Centre, Gujarat government and Maharashtra government, the people have still not been rehabilitated. The Gujarat government has agreed to pay for the rehabilitation, but the Maharashtra government has remained non-cooperative."