Water Resources Minister assures full rehabilitation before raising Sardar Sarovar dam's height
Hundreds of oustees affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat stayed put on the streets of the national capital at Jantar Mantar on the second day, after an eventful day of struggle and interaction with the central authorities in Delhi, who hold the key to the fate of the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of farmers, adivasis, fish workers, landless etc. in the Narmada valley.
After almost two hours of an intense public action at the gates of Union Ministry of Water Resources, the minister Harish Rawat agreed to meet a 10-member delegation of the oustees, led by Medha Patkar for a detailed consultation on all the issues.
The Minister and his officials heard the presentation on the massive scale of pending rehabilitation of 48,000 families, ongoing judicial inquiry into the 1,000 crore corruption scandal in MP and severe non-compliance on environmental measures and dismal performance of the SSP after an investment of 70,000 crore rupees.
Rawat assured the oustees that the Sardar Sarovar cannot move ahead, until the last person is rehabilitated and that his ministry, which leads the Narmada Control Authority will have to ensure rehabilitation, environmental compliance and a comprehensive cost-benefit appraisal before permitting any raise in dam height.
The minister said that although the primary role of his Ministry is water management and dam building, it cannot be without lawful rehabilitation.
Responding to the oustees, who informed him that more than 1,500 houses and thousands of hectares of land with standing crop has been submerged illegally during the monsoon of 2012 and 2013 due to water released from upstream dams, he admitted that there can be no submergence without rehabilitation and the people have a right to reside and cultivate their agricultural land and carry on livelihoods.