Context:

  • Even though there’s a completion of the Sardar Sarovar Project, the ground reality is starkly different in the densely populated submergence area.
  • The rehabilitation sites are not ready, with no drinking water, no proper roads, drains and culverts, no grazing grounds and other amenities which are mandatory.

The drawbacks and conflict:

  • The main issue, which is still the object of the debate, is the most fundamental one, the number of people who are displaced by the dam.
  • Secondly the controversial issue is that of the environmental aspects.
  • Another visible and neglected issues that have resulted in numerous conflicts and controversies over the Sardar-Sarovar-Project have been the lack of accountability of agencies responsible for protecting, promoting securing the rights and entitlements of the vulnerable people affected by the dam construction.

Environmental Issues:

  • The Sardar Sarovar Project will submerge about 10,000 ha of forest land.
  • There’s an urgent need to check soil erosion and to siltation in the reservoir as both contribute to degradation of water quality of the reservoir and reduce the life span of the dam.
  • Much of the government-initiated studies are done on the basis of government data, rather than from recent, independent, empirical data.
  • The researches on seasonal temporal variations in the climate and many other important parameters are also being ignored.
  • The agricultural and grazing land will also be flooded which is the only source of income for many area’s residents

The plight of the adivasis:

  • Sardar Sarovar is an example where one would have hoped to see the best situation for the adivasis but the situation of the adivasis has worsen than before.
  • All available evidence shows that the alienation of the adivasis from their lands, natural resources and cultures has only accelerated under the Sardar Sarovar Project in India.
  • Over 56 percent of the people out of 41,000 families who affected by the dam are adivasis.
  • The hill adivasis of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh had to be allotted land as per law, as they did not accept cash in lieu of land and insisted on land to resettle.
  • Moreover, the adivasis lack access to drinking water at many sites even as the government prioritizes water for projects of big industrialists.
  • The authorities have made no compensation for the common property resources like forest, fish, and water, among others, enjoyed by the adivasis in their original village.

Rehabilitation problem:

  • More than 300 families are still not compensated for their lands.
  • The taken-away properties are still not declared as “project-affected”, even though their lands are used for the Sardar Sarovar Project offices, staff quarters, roads and storages, parking lots, all for the dam project.
  • Those who have received a mere compensation instead of ‘replacement value’ for houses cannot build houses and resettle.
  • Many of the victims have received house plots that are not leveled while others haven’t got possession even now.
  • About 78 sites are not fit for human settlement, as investigation reports have concluded.
  • Government employees are trying to force people to sign ‘Vachan Patras’ agreeing to shift before July 15, with a vague statement that says that the evicted families are willing to take whatever benefits government offers as per the rules.

Initiatives:

  • In the Narmada Control Authority’s meeting on June 16, the State governments reported full compliance on rehabilitation.
  • The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister has promised to provide houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana to some families and house plots will be returned to about 5,000 families that had been paid money in lieu of plots by the authorities.

Conclusion:

  • Though there have been multiple agencies authorized to carry out the necessary tasks but the violation of rights of people and environmental pre-conditions continues with impunity.
  • When responsible and accountable government institutions and agencies fail to be faithful in reporting to the Supreme Court, the affected people have no way of realizing their rights and entitlements.
  • There is no comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation scheme for the affected families in the directives and rules laid down thus far.
  •  In a nutshell, the court is removed from ground zero to know the hardships, massive corruption, cheating, exclusion that the farmers, laborers, potters, artisans, shopkeepers and all occupational categories have faced over the years.
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