Tuesday, February 16, 2010



Narmada Bachao Andolan,

2 Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk, Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh,

 Tel: 09425394606, 09425928007

 Press Release, 16th February 2010




Environment Ministry decides to issue show-cause notice to Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited (SMHPCL) to suspend work on the dam


Around thousand villagers from the Narmada valley arrived in Delhi today to take part in a two-day dharna under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The gathered villagers demanded that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests should immediately suspend the construction work on the Maheshwar dam project, which has far outstripped the progress of the rehabilitation and resettlement measures. The oustees said that if the MoEF fails to implement the conditions of the environment clearances accorded to the Maheshwar project and suspend the work, the villagers would have to embark on an indefinite protest action in the capital beginning mid-March.


In a surprise action today, around 500 of the affected people gathered at the Ministry of Environment and Forests to protest against the inaction of the Ministry and to demand that the Ministry take immediate action to suspend work on the Maheshwar dam. A delegation of people met the Union Minister, Shri Jairam Ramesh, and gave their representation to him, demanding that the work of the Maheshwar Dam be immediately suspended until the relief and the rehabilitation of the people is completed. The Minister said that they would issue a show-cause notice by 4 pm today to the Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The notice would demand a reply from the company as to why the construction work should not be suspended due to non-compliance with conditions of the clearances given. The Corporation will have 15 days to reply before action is taken by the Ministry.


The Maheshwar dam, one of the large dams being built in the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh, is slated to submerge the lands and the homes of almost 50,000 – 70,000 peasants, fisher people, boat people and landless workers in 61 villages of the area. This project was privatised and handed over to the S. Kumar’s Group of Companies in 1992. The environmental clearances were issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, first in 1994 and then again in 2001. The statutorily binding provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, held the State Government of Madhya Pradesh and S. Kumar’s Group of Companies accountable for the rehabilitation of the villages, and required them to provide the affected families with minimum land holdings of 2 hectares of agricultural land, resettlement sites and other benefits.


The conditions of the clearances required that a comprehensive Resettlement and Rehabilitation plan, along with the details of the agricultural lands should be submitted by December 2001, and the implementation of the R&R measures were to be conducted at the same pace as the construction work. However, in clear violation of these conditions, such an R&R plan is yet to be submitted to date. It may be pointed out that the project authorities have also neither offered not allotted agricultural land in accordance with the R&R policy to even a single oustee till date. Instead the project promoters illegally purchased the land in the submergence area, compelling the oustees to sign documents waving their R&R benefits, as per the R&R Policy. This was stopped in May 2009, by the order of the Hon’ble High of Court of Madhya Pradesh, which held that such a practice was exploitative and unconstitutional.


It may be also be pointed out that the actual extent of submergence of the Maheshwar Dam is also being suppressed by the project authorities. Thus although the updated project report and the techno-economic clearance of the project record that almost 1435 hectares of land was required for submergence, the project authorities are now falsely claiming that only 873 hectares of land is now under submergence. The project authorities are also refusing to get the back-water surveys completed in time. Thus even the actual area, and accordingly, the population affected, the financial and land resources required for the R&R are not known till date. Thus, although the financial closure of the project has been done and 80% of the project construction is complete, only 3% of the rehabilitation of the affected persons has been done till date.


In light of the above, on the 29th of October 2009, the Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Shri Jairam Ramesh, wrote to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, stating that since the R&R works are lagging behind and still in their preliminary stage, but the work on the dam is 80% complete, the Ministry is deeply apprehensive that the private company, Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd. will relinquish its responsibility, leaving the affected people in a lurch. As a consequence of the grave violation of the conditions of the Environmental clearances, the MoEF proposed to halt the construction work on the dam until a comprehensive R&R Plan is submitted to the Ministry and the R&R work is bought up to pace with the construction work of the dam. In his reply to the MoEF, Chief Minister Madhya Pradesh also confirmed that only 3% of R&R measures have been completed. The Monitoring Committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests which visited the area in recent weeks has also confirmed that the R&R measures are dismally lagging behind in schedule and the required R&R plan has not even been submitted.


Yet the MoEF, which has statutory power and is under a statutory duty to stop the construction of the dam until R&R work is duly implemented is not taking any steps to do so.


It may also be mentioned that the Maheshwar project which was approved at techno-economically viable Rs. 1673 crore, is not slated to cost around Rs. 2800 crore. Thus the cost of the electricity generated from this project will be prohibitively higher and will not benefit the common people of Madhya Pradesh. However, due to the power purchase agreement of the State Government with S. Kumar’s, the State of Madhya Pradesh will have to purchase and pay for this expensive power for the next 35 years.


In Solidarity,


Alok Agarwal || Chittaroopa Palit || Ramkuwar Rawat || Gajraj Singh ||

Narmada Bachao Andolan, Khandwa


For more information, please contact: Sherry (9953466107) or Purnima Ramanujan (9711178868)



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