“When I am on a boat in the middle of the reservoir, and I know that hundreds of feet below me, directly below me, at that very point, lie my village and my home and my fields, all of which are lost forever, it is then that my chest rips apart, and I cannot bear the pain….”
-A record of Nanhe’s story as told to the paper writer in resettlement village Aitma,1997
Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi dedicated the Sardar Sarovar dam built on Narmada River to the nation on September 17, 2017. The completion of this dam is truly a watershed moment in India’s development history.
The 1.2 km-long dam, which is 163 meters deep has till date produced 4,141 crore units of electricity from its two powerhouses – river bed powerhouse and canal head powerhouse with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW and 250 MW, respectively.
The power generated from the dam would be shared among three states -Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat. About 57 percent of the electricity produced from the dam goes to Maharashtra, while Madhya Pradesh gets 27 percent and Gujarat gets 16 per cent. The Narmada canal will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan. The project would help take water to the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat, 700 kms from the dam site, to fulfill the water needs of BSF soldiers.
The Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The foundation stone of the project was laid out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961 after carrying out a study on the usage of the Narmada river water that flowed through the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and into the Arabian Sea.
Benefits of project
The Sardar Sarovar Project will provide irrigation facilities to 18.45 lac ha. of land, covering 3112 villages of 73 talukas in 15 districts of Gujarat. It will also irrigate 2,46,000 ha. of land in the strategic desert districts of Barmer and Jallore in Rajasthan and 37,500 ha. in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra through lift. About 75% of the command area in Gujarat is drought prone while entire command in Rajasthan is drought prone. Assured water supply will soon make this area drought proof.
It will also provide flood protection to riverine reaches measuring 30,000 ha. covering 210 villages and Bharuch city and a population of 4.0 lac in Gujarat.
Wild life sanctuaries viz. “Shoolpaneshewar wild life sanctuary” on left Bank, Wild Ass Sanctuary in little Rann of Kachchh, Black Buck National Park at Velavadar, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Kachchh, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and Alia Bet at the mouth of River will be benefited.
Project would generate electricity. On completion, annual additional agricultural production would be Rs. 1600 crores, power generation and water supply Rs. 175 crores, aggregating about Rs. 2175 crores every year equivalent to about Rs. 6.0 crores a day.
Benefits to small and marginal Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe farmers would be as under :
|Marginal farmers (< 1 ha.)||28.0 %|
|Small farmers (1 to 2 ha.)||24.4%|
Against one tribal displaced, 7 tribals would get benefits. In addition, there will be benefits of fisheries development, recreational facilities, water supply for industries, agro industrial development, protection of conserved forest from grazers and secondary benefits viz employment generation, increase in vegetal cover in 3.4 M. Ham. of GCA, gains due to compensatory forest, tree plantation 100 times and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) fixation to large extent by 70 times.
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN (NBA) is a social movement consisting of tribals, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against the number of large dams being built across the Narmada River, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The people started the Narmada Bacho Andolan with the goal of saving and protest the River Narmada because it was the primary assist for the people.
.After that, the movement of Narmada Bachao Andolan converted from its focus on the preservation of the environment and the ecosystems of the valley.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan group claims that 40,000 families in 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh would be displaced when the reservoir is filled to its optimum capacity. As per the government, 18,386 families would be affected in the state.
The new gates raise the height of the dam to 138.68 metres. The Narmada Control Authority in June granted permission to the state government to close the gates, which will raise water level in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir, after being convinced that rehabilitation of the people displaced due to the project was complete.
Activist Medha Patkar is protesting against the project and demanding rehabilitation of the families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam construction. Narmada Bachao Andolan took the government to the Supreme Court over environmental and rehabilitation issues, and obtained a stay in 1996. The court allowed resumption of work in October 2000.
Regarding linkages between submergence, displacement and rehabilitation the NWDTA(Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award) ruled that:
Iirrigable lands must be made available for the rehabilitation one year in advance and “In no event should any areas of M.P. and Maharashtra be submerged unless all arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of the oustees and intimated to them”.
A project of such a magnitude would have profound impact in both the human and natural environment. It is bound to disturb the existing human and natural conditions. In fact, it would create a new eco-system, which not only needs to be identified and Resettlement in Narmada River Basin understood but also managed. In the SSP most of the affected area lies outside Gujarat. The dam will submerge 19 villages in Gujarat, 33 villages in Maharashtra and 193 villages in MP. All these villages are situated in tribal areas.
Need of such Projects
We have to keep in mind that the water security of the country depends on water storage. Our water storage is low when compared to Russia (per capita storage of 6,100 cubic metres), the U.S. (1,960 cubic metres), China (1,100 cubic metres); in India, it is only about 200 cubic metres. Unless we have water storage, we cannot have water security. As per the National Commission report of 1999, we should have storage of about 450 billion cubic metres; we have so far only developed 253 billion cubic metres of storage — dams and reservoirs taken together. About 50 billion cubic metres of storage is under development.
Our food security and energy security are also dependent on water security. Inter-linking of rivers is essential to addressing the problem of floods and droughts in the country because water from the basins of water-surplus Brahmaputra, Ganga and Mahanadi rivers can be channelised to deficit areas. This would require storage, hence the case for large dams.
What keeps the Andolan alive?
These aren’t just villages. These are project-hit villages. Against a pastoral backdrop, there is a reality of mass displacement and all the problems that come with it, from no compensation received to gross misuse of compensation money in the form of alcohol abuse with consequences that tear families.
Brutalities of displacement. Of helpless farmers in uncultivable resettlement sites, of children left without schools, of broken fraternities, of impoverished communities. There exist brutalities of double displacement.
Of finally picking up the pieces and moving on while carrying a burden of loans only to find out that you are being displaced again. Of a reality where resettlement sites are often submerged. But of all harrowing sights, of all the agonising experiences, the one ingrained most indelibly is the brutality of disillusionment. Disillusionment with policy. Disillusionment with polity. Disillusionment with both the government and the movement.
While many such battles have been lost by the andolan, some important ones have been won, which keeps the andolan together. Increase in compensation for the landless labourers, readjustment of land rates, and complete halt to the Maheshwar project combined with legal redressal have proven to be crucial in keeping up the morale.
NBA never was an “anti-dam” movement, and it has ceased being just about seeking relief and compensation. It has evolved as the community around it evolved. It broke rigid caste barriers, narrowed gender disparity, and dissolved religious differences as larger groups of people took shelter under the umbrella organisation. The andolan could not remain confined to only project- related issues while ignoring its sociological manifestations.
Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) process
For carrying out R & R activities, Gujarat has released Rs. 400 crore to Government of Madhya Pradesh and Rs. 80 crore to Govt. of Maharashtra up to July 2017. Gujarat has resettled all PAFs (project affected families) of home State. Progress of the work on the directives of Supreme Court is being monitored by Narmada Control Authority. Narmada Control Authority in its 89th Emergency Meeting held on 16-06-2017, after considering the clearances from Environment Sub Group and R&R Sub Group (after considering the opinions of Grievence Redressal Authorities of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh), has permitted lowering down of gates and impounding of water in reservoir to FRL of EL 138.68m.
In the Indian context the largest majority of displaced persons from big dams have been tribal people, with their concomitant multiple vulnerabilities.
Resettlement is physical, while rehabilitation is more economic and social process. SSPA has involved several NGOs in this task and their effort is showing the positives results. Almost all 180 new habitats have been Resettlement in Narmada River Basin 08–13 adopted by the NGOs for various development programmes.
From the inception of planning of most projects, through various stages of displacement and resettlement, it is to be expected that those likely to be negatively affected by the projects would be consulted and kept informed in such a way as to enable them to best rebuild their ravaged lives. This, however, is very far from being the case. There is typically bewilderment and confusion among resettlers in virtually every large project about even the precise contours of submergence — which villages or segments of villages would be submerged, and when.
Even more lethal for rural oustees is the provision that whatever compensation is fixed, is paid as a rule in cash rather than kind. Especially tribal people, but to a lesser degree most rural people, have little experience in handling cash.
Involuntary relocation is always extremely painful, but a sensitive project bureaucracy can do much to relieve its trauma.
Resettlement sites are often inhospitable in a number of ways and their locations are selected without reference to availability of livelihood opportunities, or the preferences of displaced persons themselves.
The right of populations that may be affected by any proposed project, and all other concerned citizens or groups, to challenge claims regarding the necessity of displacement and public purpose of any project, is dependent critically on the right to information.
The right to information must extend to ‘all aspects of the project, including the detailed project report, financial plan, economic/financial viability studies, social impact-assessment and other studies, social cost-benefit analysis, environmental impact assessment, environment rehabilitation plans’ , detailed resettlement and rehabilitation plans, and conditionalities of loan sanction for the project, where applicable.
It must be a compulsory obligation on the part of the project planning and implementation authorities to involve and consult the representatives of the affected communities, including women and members of disadvantaged groups, in all phases of planning, execution and monitoring of the RR (resettlement and rehabilitation) Plan. The entire decision making process regarding RR Plans must be completely transparent. The comprehensive plan for resettlement must be made public. It must be brought to the notice of the people likely to be affected through channels like the local language media, local exhibition, meetings, etc. It is important that the government and the project authority are under an obligation to take the information to the doorstep of the affected population so as to enable even non-literate persons in the most distant area to acquire full knowledge of the plan for their resettlement. It should be mandatory and enforceable that the project-affected people [must] be given the right to participate at this very stage so that they can bring their full weight to bear on the design and content of the plan.
Land for Land- If the objectives of rehabilitation of persons displaced as a result of large dams is to ensure that they are not only better off, but are direct project beneficiaries, then at the heart of such a strategy must be a policy of replacing agricultural land and agriculture-based livelihoods with alternate agricultural land of viable size and productivity and with appropriate complements of credit and input assistance.
It would be mandatory to provide irrigated agricultural land, if land of the displaced family has been acquired for the purpose of any public irrigation project.
Nonetheless, the scope for complementary non land-based livelihoods should also be explored along with land-based strategies. One such livelihood opportunity that is always created as a by-product of any large dam project is fresh-water fishing in the large reservoir. New sources of income should be provided through the development of village enterprises, services, forestry, fishing and other “extra income” businesses.
Within the resettled villages, roads, passages and easement rights for all the resettled families should be adequately arranged and proper drainage as well as sanitation plan are executed before physical resettlement;
The forest dweller families should be provided with their traditional rights on minor forest produce and common property resources, if available close to the new place of settlement and, in case any such family can continue their access or entry to such forest or common property in the area close to the place of eviction, they may continue to enjoy their earlier rights to the aforesaid sources of livelihood;
The importance of functioning health facilities is heightened by the empirically observed enhancement in morbidity and morality in the aftermath of displacement. Declining standards of nutrition are also observed in new resettlement colonies and require a network of nutritional centres for children and pregnant women. It may be stressed that the mere creation of buildings for health and nutrition centres and schools as often happens is not enough, and the state government must ensure that personnel are deployed and the institutions duly equipped.
Where forests accessible to resettled villages are degraded and depleted, resettled tribals should be constituted into Joint Forest Management Societies, charged with the protection and regeneration of their forests.
The resettlement sites for displaced tribal families should be selected with great care and in consultation with the traditional/elected leaders or representatives of the displaced families as well as host populations, and established local NGOs.
It is interesting to note the gender bias in the resettlement policy. In tribal community very few women own property or have land in their name. It is the adult male who is considered to be the head of the family. The NWDT defines family to include husband, wife, minor children and other persons dependent on the head of the family. But legally there is no provision for a woman who is the head of the family, or single woman or a widow with minor children. The award stipulates that every major son will be treated as a separate family but a major daughter is not counted as a separate family. There is urgent need to form national policy to which rehabilitation efforts can be undertaken with a degree of uniformity. There can be variation depending upon the culture, socio-economic, and geographic situation but some minimum should be stipulated.
Integration of the new habitat with the host village is very important. In many cases host village view the new entrants as threat and oppose to share available facilities and resources with them. Government should make efforts to explain the situation to the people of the host village and prepare them to help. At places many displaced people have bitter experience with their hosts resulting into harassment and isolation.
It is good that every family is getting agriculture land in the new habitat but it is a fact that everyone cannot do agriculture, especially those who were engaged in other trade. It requires managerial skill, knowledge, and finance to operate. The reservoir is not ready yet and the agriculture depends on the vagaries of monsoon. So far tribal were doing subsistence farming but that will not take them further in changing situation. It is important that people are properly trained to cultivate land, otherwise with failure of crop they will be forced to take other jobs.
In socio economic development, not only quantum of growth is important, quality of development is equally important. Development and growth should always be inclusive and ubiquitous. Development is not justified, unless it is beneficial to all. The voice of the displaced lives, hold as equal importance as the benefits of the project. The cost of development should not be borne by the poor people, and if it affects them, then government owes complete rehabilitation and compensation to them. The steps have been taken, but there is still a need of final check so that when nation grows, everyone can take part in the celebration.
Sources: Author : Suman Meena