The first bout of floods in the Narmada valley has fully encircled the legendary Manibeli village in the swirling waters of Sardar Sarovar dam on August 3 (Thursday). The impact was felt down to a hundred and fifty kilometers back in the upstream of Narmada river well within the fertile plains of Nimad. The waters have already entered in the micro-hydel- power plant which the Adivasis have built in Bilgaon, at the height of 139 meters. Therefore, it is apprehended that the submergence would be quite massive even as the dam height has gone illegally upto 119 meters.
The schools by the people (jeevanshala) in Danel is already submerged with a few houses, there is submergence of houses in Dhankhedi, Bhadal too, while hamlets in at least 8 villages are just on the brink of the huge water body with strong waves. All the government claims regarding shifting the villagers to safer places or providing compensation to the affected people are a big sham. Thousands of people in the villages have not moved their houses or the government has not reached to these villages. The claims of compensation are false as the government has disbursed some amount to a few villagers as a compensation of submergence of 2003!!
Meanwhile, the people in the Narmada valley are preparing for Satyagraha against the illegal and unjust submergence, displacement and the destruction, from August 5 onwards. On Saturday (Aug.5), thousands of people will gather at Rajghat to launch the Satyagraha; it will be launched in Bhitada (Alirajpur, M.P.) on August 6 and at Chimalkhedi (Maharashtra) on August 7. Narmada Satyagraha is a cry to halt unjust displacement and forcible eviction which has become the most brutal truth during the last decade or so and appeals all those victimized to join us in this beautiful Valley and the oldest of the civilisations in the world.
Tragedy of Manibeli
Manibeli the historic village, in whose name an international declaration, 'Manibeli Declaration' was submitted to the World Bank and other global financing institutions, continues to struggle till date. The village was fully encircled by Narmada waters and some houses and many fields submerged, as the river is now transformed into a sea. The impact of 119 mts high Sardar Sarovar dam in these adivasi areas of Maharashtra (District Nandurbar) and Madhya Pradesh (Jhabua District) is devastating. The families who lost much of their best agricultural lands and houses too in 1993-1994, couldn't be resettled since neither Maharashtra nor Gujarat government could offer them cultivable and irrigable agricultural land, adequate to accommodate all families. Tens of families in this village could get declared as project affected (while they were left out of record, all these years) only after years long struggle, they too are yet to see any land or house plot at any resettlement si te, offered! Today there are 43 declared and 19 undeclared claimant families living in this village where flooding has started. The Jeevanshala (residential school) run by the Manibeli community and NBA is also likely to be submerged any day.
When people in Savarya were asking the Maharashtra government to take notice of the fact that many hamlets will become marooned, it merely appointed a committee, and its recommendations are far from implemented. There are many other villages such as this, in Maharashtra and M.P.
The deluge that is rising and spreading is bringing in the snakes as well as crocodiles, the aquatic creatures displaced and disturbed. There is thus a threat to life, beyond the water bound diseases such as Diarrhoea and Malaria spreading, with entitlements and rights not yet granted, the adivasis are, however, determined not to leave their land, their community.
The governments, including Maharashtra where the maximum submergence has occurred, are however, showing utmost apathy and callousness both. Beyond starting a floating mobile dispensary or a motor barge putting up some honorary doctors, there is not even PDS grains (rations) out to the affected, leave aside covering them under 'antyodaya'. Those with lands already submerged are not compensated since years. Government of Maharashtra is shamelessly claiming that it has made all arrangements. "The tin sheds of 10x15" built on a sloppy hill in Manibeli are worst than cattle sheds and how dare government asks us to accommodate 3 families in one shed? Have they seen our cattle bank, our children, the open space we are used to?" asks Daman Vasave of Manibeli. "They are torturing us, the adivasis", said Bhika, an active youth from Dhankhedi who had fasted for 7 days in 2004 at the gates of Mantralaya. In spite of our repeated plea, no government has undertaken 'Panchanama' (rec ord) of the property to be affected, why to talk of the human life in danger. The thousands and lakhs of trees and forest either not cut or with secondary growth which is thick green today, is to be submerged with the hills and land rising the siltation and green mesh effect on the reservoir water which is also drinking water for the people in the submergence and beyond those in the adjacent villages, towns and cities till 10 kms away from the river.
While the dreadful raining has begun in the adivasi hilly areas, the reservoir effect is spread right up to Nimad region, more than 125 kms upstream of the dam site. Nimad with thickly populated villages, pakka houses, lakhs of large trees, horticulture, agriculture, schools and dispensaries, markets, temples and mosques ^Å.the bustling life and livelihoods is under the serious threat of submergence this year, for the first time. It is obvious that Government of Madhya Pradesh has neither cultivable land to offer nor the rehabilitation sites ready with all amenities and adequate house plots; as investigated by NSSO and Shunglu Committee report as well.
The future of the valley thus remains sealed, with the dam stopped at a level 3 mts lower at 119 mts instead of the targeted 122 mts. The 25,000 families in M.P. recorded by Shunglu Committee and a few thousand more whose claims are not recorded in M.P., as well as those in Maharashtra, makes the number of PAFs threatened, not less than 35,000 families. The rainfall will decide the exact number to be actually facing the impact. The government is neither ready for the eventual manmade calamity nor worried!
The people's protest in the form of the mass rally of thousands of women, men, youth and children will be followed by a public meeting tomorrow on August 5th in Badwani, a Satyagraha with determination to challenge the State which is forcibly expropriating people's life support, destitutionalising farmers, labourers, fishworkers, boatsmen and entire people.