Update 04 July 2007
River Narmada is in spate. The water in the reservoir has risen to a level of 123.5 metres and above at the Sardar Sarovar dam site. The villages in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra (Manibeli to Bhadal), Jhabua district of M.P. (Akkadia to Kakrana) and few in Gujarat (Antras, Makatkheda, and others where adivasis are still residing) are threatened of further submergence than last year if water reaches 127 metres and above. Houses in Manibeli, Bamani, Chimalkhedi, Sikka, Keli in Maharashtra and those in Jalsindhi, Anjanwada, and Bhitada to Kakrana can come under submergence when the families are still not allotted land as per entitlement and no residential site with amenities is ready for them, as yet. These families who are already destitute are facing torturous situation with the roaring reservoir water cutting off all their communication channels and no relief has been provided by the concerned Governments.
People have continued to stay on top of the hills where three of our Jeevanshalas (Schools of Life) also are shifted since the farms, houses and schools got drowned since 1994 till last year. The Government of Maharashtra too has not cared to provide land and sites during last one year in spite of accepting that more than 1100 families reside in the submerged villages and hundreds of others (as per one estimate) are in the hamlets and villages, which are to be marooned.
M.P. Government's record is the worst. The adivasis have never got a response even when their communities have gone under water. Those shifted to Gujarat have faced difficulties, many have had to return back but none is resettled in M.P. even though they have a right and demand to do so.
The Madhya Pradesh Government is also least bothered about the 25,000 families in 177 villages (declared 19,000 and the rest undeclared claimants), which can as per the official reports, be affected by the submergence this year. The unexpectedly high torrential rains have shown the levels of water rising in the villages without Narmada reservoir water entering the fields and houses. What would be their fate when the water rise to 130 metres at the dam site, is to be imagined? With 1000 to 5000 population each in many of these villages, the hustling-bustling life is under a severe threat.
The valley is facing enormous difficulties, almost a torturous situation, due to the impacts. River Narmada was almost dry till 2 days back when the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar were filled. Thousands of oustees of these dams who never questioned the Dams before and sacrificed their lives on the altar of development are in the path of agitation today, in Bhopal. The fast has entered 28th day while the sit-in has been on for more than a month. They didn't even get what the SSP-oustees have, due to the struggle. And yet the two dams are filled to the maximum when the crops downstream, in the SSP-affected region needed irrigation. The river was almost dead. Then came the rainfall … upon the lands but also houses and it drowned and doomed the communities … houses in villages … hundreds of motor pumps too. The cycle of drought and flood is now to recur almost every year! Struggle will again be necessary to compel the Government to regulate waters to be stored and released from the cascade of dams.
The basic human issue, however, is land. There is no land and the extra cash, as "Special Rehabilitation Package" has resulted not in rehabilitation but corruption (see the update issued on July 3rd). The adivasis in the Satpura and Vindhya ranges haven't touch cash and they are insisting on land. The private land located by the people with NBA support in Nimad area is demanded and should be allotted.
The heated dialogue between the Collector, Jhabua and a delegation of about 100 adivasis on June 28th following 2 sit-ins since January 2007 led to the officials accepting offering and allotting land … but to only 10% of the families since the rest are either not declared or allotted ex-parte land which is neither seen nor accepted.
Not less than 2 - 2.5 lakh people in the submergence area thus are stranded. With no rehabilitation in sight, the claims of benefits from Sardar Sarovar Project are also exposed. The power as well as irrigation benefits attained at today's dam height are 10 – 20% of the expected. Moreover while water share of Kutch is diverted to Gandhinagar, instead of 0.2 MAF, 1 MAF of water is to be given to industries. It's a gross betrayal of the drought-affected within Gujarat and of the two states who are sacrificing their own adivasis and farmers.
Gujarat however is being taught a lesson … whose water is flowing waste? It's that fallen on the land of Mahatma Gandhi who had warned us of planning to fulfill the need but not to live for greed. The state of Gujarat will repent forever if the land can't accommodate water even after destroying other's land and resources. Narmada the oldest of the rivers and the culture beckons you and we all have to learn from the 'Satyagraha' that is on since last 2 decades.
There is no going back … but looking forward to face the strongest ever challenge this very monsoon. The dam water has risen to 124 metres … and is rising still. Tomorrow the first protest of this monsoon in Badwani will raise a voice … of the Valley, supporting the struggle in Omkareshwar, Indira Sagar and linking those with Sardar Sarovar.
Ashish Mandloi Kamla Yadav Yogini Khanolkar Medha Patkar