(Above: Protest in Bharuch on Oct 8, 2017 when Prime Minister laid foundation stone for Bhadbhut Dam on Narmada)
“Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe” is these days a super hit song in Gujarati, which literally means “Development has gone mad”. In the just concluded Garba (form of traditional social dance in Gujarat) festival, this was hugely popular this year through out Gujarat. The song became popular, even before Prime Minister of India celebrated his birthday on Sept 7 by declaring completion of an incomplete Sardar Sarovar Project, heaping totally unnecessary, unjustified and unjust displacement on 40 000 families of Narmada Valley and killing the largest west flowing river of India. So much for the river rejuvenation claims his government has been making since May 2014. As if to complete the process, they have started another dam on Narmada, few kilometers downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam, at Garudeshwar, even without any environmental impact assessment. Continue reading “India’s Dam Mania gives acche din for Dam lobby and Gando Vikas”→
On June 17, 2017, a PIB Press Release from Union Ministry of Water Resources announced, “Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared the final raising of Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) in Gujarat by lowering of gates and impounding of water in the reservoir upto its Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of EL 138.68 mts. The NCA which met here yesterday under the Chairmanship of Dr. Amarjit Singh, Secretary (WR, RD & GR) considered all aspects of environmental and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) issues.”
Sushri Uma Bharati
The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
Government of India
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
1. Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation
2. Shri Alok Rawat, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and ex-officio Chairman of the Narmada Control Authority
3. Shri A. Mahendran, Executive Member (Additional Charge), Narmada Control Authority
We the undersigned are deeply concerned about the recent decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 16.76 metres taking the height to the designed final height of 138.68 metres.
We think this decision of the NCA is unjustified and unwise. 1) It will cause huge additional displacement, when rehabilitation of the people affected even at the current height is incomplete. 2) As everybody agrees and experience has shown, even at current height, Gujarat is in a position to take the water stored to virtually any part of the designed command area, and can draw its share of water as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award. Moreover, it has been able to utilise only a small portion of the water available at current height. So there are no compelling reasons for raising the height on this count.
Under these circumstances, the decision taken by the newly formed government at the centre and the NCA to raise the height of the dam within two weeks of oath by the new government is a hasty, unwise and disastrous decision. We earnestly appeal to you and the government to immediately withdraw the decision to raise the height of the dam.
More importantly, the issues related to the dam have festered over more than 30 years of its troubled history because governments have tended to take a legalistic stand rather than initiate an inclusive dialogue on the substantive issues about the project amongst all concerned, particularly those adversely affected. We appeal to you to start such an inclusive process of reflection and dialogue to arrive at a broad social consensus on four critical issues about the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) as outlined below.
1. Height of the dam: What is the height of dam needed for Gujarat to utilise its share of Narmada waters and take water to all its designated command? As already mentioned above, Gujarat is in a position to take water anywhere in the designated command area. There are studies and alternatives which indicate that Gujarat may be able to utilise its share of Narmada waters at current height and no further height increase may be required on this count. Doing away with the installation of the 16.8 meter high gates does not have any structural implications for the dam. So far as power generation is concerned, major power benefit is transitional, falling off as the states utilise their share of water and final residual power benefit is small. Moreover, even today, as per Central Electricity Authority (CEA) figures, at current height SSP generated 5,882 Million Units of Power in 2013-14, which is more than what SSP was envisaged to generate. The biggest beneficiary of power generated at SSP is Madhya Pradesh, but it forms a small percentage of its present power capacity and generation while virtually the entire brunt of massive displacement has to be borne by it. So, it may be optimal for Madhya Pradesh to trade off much of its transitional power benefit with the greatly reduced submergence and displacement with a dam at the current height. Thus there is a distinct possibility that optimal solutions exist at current height and they need to be explored.
2. Equitable distribution, sustainable use and participatory and efficient management of stored water: Given the ability to carry water to all parts of Gujarat at current height, it is more important to concentrate on issues of how water is used now. Criticism on these counts comes from some of the strongest proponents of the project. The project has been criticised, among other things, on account of gross underutilisation of the stored water, irrigation water not reaching the drought prone areas of Kachch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat, diversion of water for unplanned uses (for example, river front development, urban and industrial use south of Sabarmati), non existence of water users’ associations (WUAs) for most part of the command, lack of proper drainage in the command area, and inefficient and inequitable use.
3. Status of displacement and rehabilitation: There is a large gap in the perceptions and articulations of state and various groups and individuals including those from the adversely affected, both about the exact numbers involved as well as about the quality of rehabilitation. While the authorities have generally been claiming satisfactory rehabilitation, there is every indication that the rehabilitation even at current height falls quite short of what is legally required or what basic human justice demands. Since the submergence and displacement that would take place between 121.92 metres and 138.68 metres would be massive, there is every indication that effective rehabilitation would be intractable and virtually impossible. It becomes much more urgent to bridge this gap and come to a consensus on the actual extent and quality of rehabilitation already carried out before causing further massive displacement.
4. Environment and Climate Change: Environment and climate change issues that are important in the long run have not been given due attention. Downstream impacts of SSP on environment and livelihoods have not been properly assessed, environment-flows and requirements have not been studied and management plans have not been formulated or implemented. Climate change experts emphasise the importance to reevaluating the costs, benefits, impacts and optimality of projects and it is high time we initiated studies and discussion on these with respect to the SSP. If rejuvenation of rivers is to receive a central place in water resources development and the Narmada is to remain alive these issues need to be brought into discussion and resolved as soon as possible.
Good governance entails making socially and environmentally just decisions within a deliberative democratic framework and it is the lack of this that has resulted in three decades history of conflict and polarisation around SSP. We sincerely hope you will put us on a path of better governance, the professed aim of the new government, by revoking the decision to increase the height of the SSP from the current 121.92 m to 138.68 m and initiating a comprehensive dialogue on the substantive issues surrounding it.
A. C. Bhagabati,
K. J. Joy,
M K Prasad,
N. C. Narayanan,
Rajeswari Sarala Raina,
Ramaswamy R. Iyer,
Names added subsequently:
V N Sharma
For any further details and follow up please contact:
Ashish Kothari (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Himanshu Thakkar, (email@example.com);
Himanshu Upadhyaya (firstname.lastname@example.org);
K. J. Joy (email@example.com);
Shripad Dharmadhkari (firstname.lastname@example.org);
Suhas Paranjape (email@example.com)
Why this hurry to submerge tribals and farmers under
In a shocking decision on June 12, 2014, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), headed by the secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), & which includes secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) and senior officials of four states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan, have sanctioned, in what The Hindu called “emergency meeting” (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/narmada-dam-to-be-higher-by-17-m/article6108571.ece) installation of 17 m high gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River in Gujarat, taking the effective current height of the dam from 121.92 m to 138.68 m. This has been done after the Rehabilitation sub group (RSG) of the Narmada Control Authority, chaired by secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) has also cleared this decision. This decision implies submergence of thousands of ha of land and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when their rehabilitation, as legally required, has not been done.
Strangely, the government that talks about transparency, had nothing to report on its website (either PIB website or MWR website till 12 noon on June 6, 2014) about this decision, who will be affected, reason for such emergency decision or basis for the decision.
More importantly, Gujarat & Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada river without this height increase and are not able to use even 20% of the water already available to them at the current height. This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even legal sanction. Only additional benefit that increase in height can provide is additional water storage, which will imply about 10-20% additional power generation, in which Gujarat’s share is only 16%: 57% share goes to MP and 27% share goes to Maharashtra.
There is some misinformation that this height increase is required to take the water to Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. This is completely wrong. The Full Supply Level of Narmada Main Canal is 110 m and once water enters this level in the dam, water can be taken to the canals. Once water enters the main canal, it can be taken to the Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat. Based on information we have obtained from SSNNL under RTI, we have seen that Gujarat can get its full share of 9 Million Acre Feet of water at current height and no height increase is necessary. Had Gujarat built the necessary canal distribution system with branch canals, distributary canals, minors, sub minors and field canals to fields in Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat, it could have taken Narmada water to these regions even eight years ago. To suggest that height increase will achieve this is clearly spreading misinformation. Similarly, as far as providing drinking water to the drought prone areas is concerned, height increase is not required to complete that.
Gujarat, in the meantime have increased the share of drinking water (1 MAF) and industrial Water (0.22 MAF) from 0.87 MAF for these combined sectors, at the cost of irrigation, without any participatory or transparent process. (see new share in this report in The Hindu on June 12, 2014: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/a-long-wait-ends-for-gujarat/article6109547.ece).
It is shocking that all the officials of the central and state governments and all the concerned ministers (including Water Resources Minister Ms Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Mr Prakash Javdekar, Social Justice Minister Mr Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in addition to Gujarat and MP Chief Ministers) have towed the line dictated by Prime Minister Mr Modi and Gujarat Government in this regard, within two weeks of new government taking over. No additional rehabilitation could have been accomplished in these two weeks, which seems to indicate that a political decision has been taken, without considering the ground realities, merits or justification of the decision or necessity of the decision. This does not bode good for the functioning of the new government.
It should be noted here that the installation of gates will take three years, and in any case, for closing the gates, the project will need clearance from Environment Sub Group, RSG and NCA again. Secondly, the gates have been lying in the yard of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) for many years and a question mark was raised about the safety of the gates in a recent meeting of the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee. Now, as The Times of India reported on June 13, 2014 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Use-of-30-year-old-gates-worries-experts/articleshow/36453333.cms), even former Gujarat Government officials are raising the issue of old technology of 30 year old gates when new technology gates would be also be safer. In view of all this, it may have been better, as Narmada Bachao Andolan has suggested, for the government to first take proper stock of the situation rather than rush into this “emergency” decision on the eve of the monsoon, when no work is in any case possible in monsoon.
It is also shocking that even before the RSG and NCA were to take the decision; Gujarat Government was already busy preparing for celebratory meeting at the Dam site. This shows that the functioning of the statutory bodies has been taken for granted and their decision was pre-determined, as directed by higher authorities.
Gujarat can get its water share without increase in height The new government wants to take the SSP Dam from its current height of 121.92 m to its final design height of 138.68 m. Firstly, there are serious doubts if this height increase is required since it can be shown that Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada without this increase in height. Secondly, Gujarat is not even in a position to use more than 20% of the water it already gets from the river at current height of the dam for the purposes for which the project was designed: providing water for the drought affected regions in Kutch, Saurashtra & North Gujarat. On the other hand, urban centres, industrials areas, SEZs, cosmetic river beautification schemes have appropriated a large chunk of SSP waters without legal, democratic sanction or justification. Gujarat really does not have a case for increasing the height of SSP Dam.
Moreover, this will also entail such massive additional submergence, displacement and disruption of lives of tribals and farmers that it is sure to create huge opposition. Narmada Bachao Andolan estimates that an additional 2.5 lakh people will face unjust submergence in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The just rehabilitation of already affected people is far from complete, in fact, most of the affected population has not been given minimum 2 ha of land required under the Narmada Tribunal award and subsequent accepted policies.
Mr Modi during his tenure of 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat failed to complete the canal network of SSP in the drought prone areas in whose name the project has always been justified. It needs to be noted that the agitation against SSP did not stop Gujarat government from going ahead with construction of canal network. It was not for lack of finances that SSP could not complete the canal network. SSP has been getting largest quantum of money from the Government of India’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme ever since the AIBP scheme started in 1996. This support to SSP from AIBP was clearly wrong since SSP was never the last mile project for which AIBP was meant, but the big dam lobby in Union Water Resources ministry and Gujarat government were hand in glove in this misallocation of AIBP money for SSP. In fact, Mr Modi arm-twisted the Planning Commission in 2011-12 to sanction the escalated costs for SSP even when the issues raised by Planning Commission officers remained unanswered.
It is the ineptitude of Gujarat Government under Mr Modi that is on show as to why it could not complete the canal network on drought prone areas in Gujarat. Mr Modi would do well to remember the reasons for that failure before he considers the mega projects agenda as Prime Minister.
Moreover, on SSP, the issues of completing repairs of the damages the Sardar Sarovar dam structure suffered four years ago & related issue of safety of the dam are yet to be resolved and Gujarat has embarked on building another Garudeshwar Dam in immediate downstream without any impact assessments, participatory democratic process or required sanctions. The legality of the Garudeshwar Dam work stands challenged in the National Green Tribunal by the affected tribals.
Conclusion This unnecessary, unwarranted and unjust decision is not going to go down well with any right thinking person. The new government at the center is clearly treading a path that is bound to raise huge uproar and make the common person on street question: for whom and for what purpose is this government working. It would be in best interest of everyone if the government was so confident, to get this debated in the Parliament.
It seems large parts of mainstream national media have gone underground these days. If you view most of the English and some Hindi news channels or most of the English and Hindi newspapers, you suddenly find proliferation of reports favouring Mr Narendra Modi and BJP. The repeated highlighting of the doctored pre poll analysis, without attempt at in-depth analysis or investigation into the credentials of the agencies doing such predictions is only one troublesome part. But even in reporting of the news, there is a clearly discernable pro-BJP tendency and an attempt to black out or under report or mis-report the news surrounding BJP’s rivals, particularly the news around Aam Admi Party (AAP). This was most evident in reporting of AAP’s trip to Gujarat in first week of March 2014.
There will be no doubt to any objective viewer that AAP’s trip punctured the well-crafted balloon of Gujarat’s development image. To many Gujaratis like me, this was not such a big breaking news. But strangely, the media that is supposed to report realities in an objective manner, should have been happy reporting this significant development. Arvind Kejriwal’s hour long speech in Ahmedabad at a hugely attended meeting should have been reported extensively in the media. Strangely, large parts of the mainstream media (both print and electronic) almost blacked this out.
This no doubt reflected poorly on the media that has been accepting the claims of Modi and BJP as gospel truths, since an independent media should have exposed the reality of these claims on its own through trips like the one AAP members did. The speech in Ahmedabad on March 8, 2014 was a good opportunity for the media to correct their own failure. In stead of using that opportunity, by not reporting or under reporting or mis-reporting, the media has further discredited itself.
It reminds one of an episode in Gujarat not long ago. “One morning some years ago, Gujarat’s residents found a newspaper on their doorsteps. They hadn’t subscribed to it, and it carried a vaguely familiar masthead. It was called Gujarat SatyaSamachar, to make it resemble the state’s largest circulated newspaper, Gujarat Samachar. It was produced by Gujarat’s information department (a portfolio held by chief minister Narendra Modi) and contained reports of the state government’s achievements”, wrote former Divya Bhaskar (Gujarati edition of paper from Bhaskar group) editor Aakar Patel in his column in Mint on March 1, 2014.
The reason Gujarat government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar was “belief was that the local media was either suppressing stories about government successes or was critical of Modi to the point of antagonism”. The Gujarat Satya Samachar did not run much beyond a couple of issues, since Gujarati media quickly fell in line, the way government wanted. In fact, this episode should not give a misleading picture that Gujarati media was depicting the reality of Gujarat’s development before the government resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar. Far from it.
While traveling through various parts of Gujarat, I have seen frustration of the aam Gujarati about the way the state is ruled over the last decade and more. Repeatedly, common people on the street have told me, during my numerous trip in the state, about corruption, break down of the regular basic facilities like schooling (everyone seems to have to go for tuitions and tuition classes, “then what are the schools for?” as one frustrated autorikshaw wala told me) or electricity or water and pro-big-industries bias of the state establishment. Intellectuals and independent observers have talked about the huge gap between claims of the Gujarat government and reality for long.
Ahmedabad is supposed to be shining with Sabaramati river front development, but if you go a dozen kilometers upstream or downstream you realize that this is just for the benefit of the real estate developers of the city. The state of the river elsewhere is as bad as Yamuna in Delhi. Even the water you see in Sabarmati flows in it through a fraud. This water is from Narmada project and not a drop from it was planned or allocated for Ahmedabad city or Sabarmati River. The project was proposed and justified for drought prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. They are not getting this water, in stead farmers of Saurashtra are fighting FIRs and cases for using Narmada water! Farmers everywhere are feeling discriminated when the state government favours big industries at their expense and without transparency or due justice or their participation. The tribal belt is not only neglected, it is facing prospects of more and more displacement and deforestation in the name of dams, river linking projects and industrial zones and corridors.
While traveling through the tribal areas near Sardar Sarovar dam, Savitaben Tadvi of Indravarna village told us about the repression they are facing while peacefully opposing the Garudeshwar dam on Narmada river, which has neither any valid approval nor any impact assessment or consent from the affected villages in the upstream or downstream. Lakhan Musafir of Umarva village took us to the washed out portion below the Sardar Sarovar dam, including the viewers park, about which there is so little information in public domain. Rohit Prajapati of Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, showing the proposed site of the statue of Unity, publicized as world’s highest statue, just downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, said how the foundation stone was laid on Oct 31, 2013 by arresting the peacefully opposing tribals, but that project neither has any impact assessment, nor any of the statutorily required approvals. As Nandini Oza, after traveling for over a thousand kilometers in Gujarat recently said, “You can actually smell development at Vapi, Ankaleshwar!”
BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who as a chief minister, resorted to Gujarat Satya Samachar to show slightly critical Gujarati media its place and succeeded in arm-twisting them, has been resorting to less than Satya in his electioneering. Just to illustrate, during his trip to North East, he did not mention his support for either large hydro projects or inter linking of rivers, which are facing huge opposition in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and other states. But during his speech in following week on February 26, 2014 in Madhya Pradesh, he talked about the North East region being “heaven for hydro power generation”. In that same state of Madhya Pradesh, his party chief Minister flashed full page advertisements (at public expense) for three straight days about Narmada Kshipra link as harbinger of the ILR dream of former prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. In reality it is just a pipeline water supply project with questionable viability and justifiability, without even impact assessment or participation of the people of the Narmada or Malwa region. There is already opposition to the project from among the farmers of the Narmada Valley.
There are others who have taken an objective view of Gujarat story. Revealing research by two professors of British Columbia, Canada about GUJARAT GROWTH VS DEVELOPMENT recently showed: “This is a perplexing picture of development. Gujarat has done so much better in terms of growth and so much worse in terms of development than other states. Why has the fast growth not translated into meaningful development? Finally, it is the grassroot-level institutions that run schools, health clinics, bring water and sanitation to households, and bring the fruits of growth to the multitudes. Could it be that the centralised model of governance that works well for big investment projects does not work as well for grassroot institutions? Or, is this high growth with low development model indicative of the priorities of the government of Gujarat? Or is it something else altogether? It would be good to know the answer.”
The trouble is, large part of mainstream media has mostly blacked out all this critical news. This situation is no doubt very bad for Indian democracy. As a senior journalist from financial paper told me, whenever there is extraordinarily positive report about any company or party, first question that arises is, how much has the reporter been paid to write such a story! Media should be wary of at least such a perception.
 Why the growth fundamentalist THE ECONOMIST refused to back Modi: “But for now he should be judged on his record—which is that of a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred. There is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better.” See: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21600106-he-will-probably-become-indias-next-prime-minister-does-not-mean-he-should-be-can-anyone?fb_action_ids=10202394265351839&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=scn%2Ffb_ec%2Fcan_anyone_stop_narendra_modi_
 http://indiatogether.org/could-modi-be-a-development-disaster-government by Ashish Kothri
 http://www.ndtv.com/elections/article/election-news/blog-gujarat-s-development-pre-dates-modi-considerably-505647?pfrom=home-topstories by Reetika Khera, Development Economist at IIT Delhi
 “CAG reports and data on economic and social development from various sources make it evident that the much-touted “Gujarat model” of development is non-inclusive, socially divisive and highly ineffective in key areas.”
By ATUL SOOD and KALAIYARASAN A.” Gujarat Model: Fiction and Facts: Frontline Cover Story, April 4, 2014: http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/fiction-and-facts/article5795324.ece?ref=sliderNews (needs registration to get full story)
 “To sum up, the “Gujarat model” story, recently embellished for the elections, is misleading in at least three ways. First, it exaggerates Gujarat’s development achievements. Second, it fails to recognise that many of these achievements have little to do with Narendra Modi. Third, it casually attributes these achievements to private enterprise and economic growth. All this is without going into murkier aspects of Gujarat’s experience, such as environmental destruction or state repression.” From Hindu article by Jean Dreze, See: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-gujarat-muddle/article5896998.ece
 Another warning from eminent people against voting for Narendra Modi for Prime Minister: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/if-modi-elected-india-future-gujarat