NBA demands height of ISP reservoir to be lowered to 255 meters
Satyagraha in submergence villages in Khandwa and Harda
In the wake of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Order dated 8th September 2006, permitting the water level in the Indira Sagar dam to be raised from 255 meter to 260 meter, the reservoir has begun rising, engulfing many fields and houses that were not slated for submergence even at 262.13 meter FRL, and placing the lives of the oustees at great risk. These houses and fields had not been either acquired or compensated, and the concerned families had not been rehabilitated or resettled. It is clear to all from the scenario that is emerging from the rising impoundment, that the water-levels regarding the extent of submergence are deeply underestimated. In some villages, this under-estimation may be anywhere between 2 meter and 5 meter.
These flawed surveys are compounded by the fact that the State Government and the NHDC have arbitrarily excluded around 9000 families from acquisition, after having surveyed and numbered them before the Section 4 Notification. The State government has also left out several hundred families after Section 9 Notification. These arbitrary, illegal and large-scale exclusions along with faulty surveys places several thousand people of death and submergence at risk of submergence in the coming days. It may be noted that the State Government had stated on affidavit in Court that all R&R up to FRL 262.13 meter is complete.
In the last 10 days, 17 houses were submerged in Village Karanpura in Khandwa district. Eleven more are on the verge of submergence. The families have not yet been given their R&R entitlements. In Village Bediaon, four houses submerged in the reservoir, without acquisition or R&R. In village Junapani, fields of 21 families that had not been acquired were submerged in the reservoir at 257 meter although they were not slated for submergence even at 262.13 meter. Many more fields are likely to be submerged in the coming days. In Village Badgaon Raiyyat, 34 houses built as resettlement by oustees on their fields which are not in the submergence, after their original houses became slated for submergence may all be washed away below water-level 260 meter. In village Badgaon Mal, -- houses are likely to be submerged if the water level rises to 260 meter. In Village Lachora, around 40 houses are likely to be submerged almost immediately and another 200 may be submerged with further rise in waters. None of these houses and fields in Villages Lachora, Badgaon Mal, Badgaon Raiyyat, and Junapani have been acquired or the concerned families resettled. Fields in Villages Surlai in Dewas, Purni in Khandwa and several other villages have been submerged. These had also not been acquired. It is clear that the submergence that has taken place is illegal and if the water level is permitted to rise till 260 meter, the lives of a few thousand families may be at risk.
Houses arbitrarily excluded after identification in Pre-Section 4 surveys and after Section 9 Notices
It may be noted that when the river is in flood in the monsoon, the water piles up behind the dam, and many more lands and properties that are above FRL are submerged temporarily in the waters. At the Indira Sagar dam site, the highest anticipated pile-up will be 263.35 meter also known as MWL (Maximum Water level) but further back in the reservoir, it is even higher. At the furthest reaches at Handia and Nemawar, the back-water is expected to go up to 279 meters.
In early 2006, after the NBA forcefully raised the issue in the High Court that the Government was not acquiring properties in the back-water submergence, despite strict legal liability, the State Government began acquisition proceedings in the back-water affected villages. However this acquisition was not up to Back-water levels, but only up to Maximum Water Level 263.35 meter.
After the pre-Section 4 surveys, the Government and the NHDC anticipated that around 8000 families would be additionally affected between FRL and MWL. They also anticipated that the properties of 3358 families would have to be acquired in villages that would become marooned at FRL, and those which were affected at submergence at FRL but had been left out because of mistakes in surveys. Thus it was anticipated by the Government in December 2005-January 2006, that an additional 11, 358 families would require R&R as their properties were in submergence or would become marooned up to MWL. This was stated on affidavit by them in Court.
However, acquisition was finally completed for only 2200 families. Most of the identified families were left out at the Section 4 stage itself, despite clear surveys that they fall into the submergence zone. Around 1000 families were left out later after Section 9 notices were given. The exclusion has been admitted by Collector Khandwa in his Order dated 26.04.2006 where he admits that 3000 houses have been left out in Khandwa itself, and that many of these houses have been left out at FRL itself. Both the exclusions were unlawful and constituted a threat to the Life of these families, as well as an open violation of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is also an open violation of Article 300 A of the Constitution which states that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law."
This large scale, arbitrary and deliberate exclusion of around 9000 families (aimed, no doubt at reducing the R&R related expenditure of the NHDC and thereby increasing their profits), compounded by the large-scale mistakes in the surveys is likely to put thousands of persons in the Indira Sagar submergence zone at risk.
NCA (Narmada Control Authority) visits
Officers of the NCA ^Ö Dr. Afroz Ahmed and the District administration of Harda including District Collector visited Karanpura village yesterday and saw the submerged houses and stranded cattle. The families whose houses have been submerged are yet to be given R&R.
Dharaji all over again ?
It may be recalled that in early 2005, several hundred families were washed away when the NHDC suddenly released waters from the Indira Sagar dam. No officials of either the State Government or the NHDC were punished. Nor were charges of criminal negligence filed against any official despite the mass nature of the deaths of hundreds of innocent pilgrims due to man-made reasons. It is clear that blood has already flowed in the Narmada and both the State Government and the NHDC have that blood on their hands. Yet, it is a sign of their impunity and lack of accountability that they have chosen once again to put the lives of thousands of innocent people at risk.
In the circumstance, the NBA and the affected villagers demand that
1. The water level at the dam site be immediately reduced to 245 meters, and the lands and houses have been submerged without acquisition and R&R be emptied of submergence and restored to the villagers. That the water level not be permitted to be raised above 245 meter until all acquisition is completed and R&R completed up to Back-water level as required by the Honorable Supreme Court.
2. The villagers whose lands and houses have been submerged without acquisition and R&R be given full compensation for loss of their crops and houses.
3. Fresh surveys be done for all the reservoir rim villages up to Back-water level under the guidance of the CWC (Central Water Commission) and all houses and properties acquired in accordance with law, as per the Order of the High Court.
4. NCA R&R sub-group visit all the villages and submit a Report as per the Order of the High Court.
5. Lists of all houses that have been excluded arbitrarily at Section 4 stage and Section 9 stage after surveys be made publicly available by the State Government, and acquisition proceedings be immediately commenced and completed for the same.
6. Officers responsible for the wrong surveys, and for the willful and arbitrary exclusions of houses from the ambit of acquisition and R&R be given exemplary punishment and criminal charges filed against them.
Declaration of Satyagraha
The affected villagers of Khandwa and Harda have decided to start satyagraha at the rims of the reservoir on the lands that have been submerged or are submerging without acquisition and R&R to prevent any further submergence and with the above mentioned demands. They have declared that they will not permit the State government and the NHDC to deprive them of their Constitutional rights and protect their Right to Life, by giving up their lives if need be.