In an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, several activists have requested that the construction of dams on Narmada river should not be restarted until the rehabilitation of the displaced is complete and the environmental clearances are met with.
Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist, said: “The chief ministers of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are appealing to the prime minister to restart construction of Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar dams on Narmada. However, rehabilitation and environmental safeguards in both dams have not been completed..
“Therefore, we have written an open letter to the prime minister requesting him to intervene,” he added.
The letter said: “We deeply appreciate the fact that the central government has recently ordered suspension of work on the Maheshwar dam since the oustees are not resettled and rehabilitated, as per the requirements of the environmental clearance dated May 1, 2001.
“While over 80 percent of the construction work of the Maheshwar dam has been completed, a mere 5 percent of the 70,000 oustees have been rehabilitated. Rehabilitation has not happened at the same pace as construction. Even the full extent of submergence is yet to be known since the backwater survey has not been done,” it added.
The letter said the assurances of the prime minister, with regard to rehabilitation of families displaced due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, have proved to be futile.
“Based on your guarantee and recommendation, the Sardar Sarovar dam was raised to 121.9 metres. Not only was rehabilitation not achieved in 2006, but even today in 2010, over 30,000 of these families are yet to be rehabilitated,” the letter said.
It urged the prime minister to ensure that no further construction is permitted “without the resettlement and rehabilitation of all families and full compliance with all environmental measures”.
Among the nearly 400 people who signed the letter are Aditya Gilra from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (Bangalore); Kumares Mitra, a professor; Sajid Shaikh, an activist; Franceso Benvenuti of the University of Edinburgh and Aggie Menezes, a lecturer at St. Xaviers college, Mumb