178 Villages In Madhya Pradesh Sink As Sardar Sarovar Dam Inches Closer To Its Peak Level
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to witness Sardar Sarovar dam on September 17, which also happens to be his birthday. The dam is about to reach its full capacity soon and will be a milestone for Gujarat. It also claims to deliver drinking water to 131 urban centres and irrigation facilities for 18.54 hectares of land. The dam will also provide irrigation to the barren lands of Gujarat – Kutch and Saurashtra amongst others.
However, the villages in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are bearing the brunt of the ambitious project. The dam has submerged 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh creating a hostile condition for the people in the villages. The water-logging poses a big threat to the livelihood of the indigenous communities in Madhya Pradesh. Walls of their houses are dilapidating at an alarming rate, while transportation is stalled as the roads are submerged for over a week now. But the government is yet to rehabilitate the community.
Social activist and founder of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) Medha Patkar, ended her nine-day long hunger strike on September 9th after the Madhya Pradesh government heard her demands. While speaking to The Logical Indian about the difficulties the villagers are facing in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, she said, “PM Manmohan Singh in 2008 was made to sign a treaty which was submitted to the Supreme Court. The treaty asked the Centre to not move further with the unlawful construction of dams that are to be built over the Narmada until the rehabilitation process of the indigenous communities is fully accomplished. Hence, putting restrictions on developing the Sardar Sarovar Dam. But the incumbent government in 2016 went on with the development nonetheless promising to take down water level 6 meters from the existing 1.5 metres. However, the promise remained on papers and villages in MP are witnessing apocalyptic scenario due to continuous waterlogging.”
She also mentioned Ekalvawara village where lives remain to be underwater. “Ekalwara village has seen 300 houses getting partially submerged in water. The threat looms larger over the houses made of mud and sand as they could be washed off any minute. However, the government survey showed that there were only 100 houses that got affected in the Ekalwara village. And, the people there have already been relocated to safer places. You can overhear the public outcry in the back. It reveals a different picture” Patkar said.
She had written to the additional chief secretary, Madhya Pradesh pointing out that the Narmada Control Authority’s figures of 76 villages and 6,000 families which would be affected when the reservoir is filled up to 138.68 m are wrong. Patkar pointed out that the figures are true only for one district – Dhar – and the other districts of Alirajpur, Badwani and Khargone were not included.
“The nine-day hunger strike came to halt when Patkar was promised that all her demands will be fulfilled. The Madhya Pradesh government has written a letter asking the Gujarat government to take some action. However, the government of Gujarat and Centre overlook the crisis faced by the remote villages of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and are now ready to celebrate the illicit development of Sardar Sarovar Dam,” said Rahul Yadav, 22, a villager from Dhar district.
According to NBA the 64,000 crore project that commenced in 1979, displaced around 48,000 people living by the banks of river Narmada. More than 16000 have been relocated to safer areas while 32,000 are still struggling to cope up with the aftereffects of the project. The consequences are replicated in 33 villages of Maharashtra as well.
Chetan Salve, a volunteer of NBA from Mukdi village, said that in Maharashtra 100 houses and 100 hectares of farming land remain affected by the water-logging. The Narmada Development Department has not even constructed a simple sheet shed in his native village. No relief measures from the Centre or the state government were released. The 33 sunken villages have lost hopes from the government.“I was there in the village for two days. No floating hospitals, no boats were to be found. The ramifications of the problem will be hazardous as even poisonous snakes can found slithering beside you,” said Salve.
NBA still looks forward to the Centre to release funds for the areas that remain underwater and give them the compensation that was promised – a stipulated agricultural land and a house, as the grand project has cost people their livelihood and everything they held dear.