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Gujarat hails decision to raise Narmada dam height, activists protest
Thursday June 12, 2014 9:52 PM, IANS

The political leadership in Gujarat Thursday hailed the decision to raise the Sardar Sarovar Dam height while activists opposed to the dam said concerns regarding people's displacement had been overlooked.

"The NCA (Narmada Control Authority) has granted approval to raise the dam height to 138 metres," Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel said at a function in Junagadh Thursday afternoon.

"Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon. PM Narendra Modi. The decision pending has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa gaye hain!!" she confirmed on Twitter, before leaving to Kevadia for a visit to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) site.

The decision, touted to come as a boon to Gujarat, which regularly faces water crisis because of deficient or sparse rainfall, was bitterly criticised by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by social activist Medha Patkar.

She described the move as "undemocratic and amounting to injustice to the people living in the submergence area".

"The ministry concerned should come together and assess the ground situation first," Patkar said.

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti tried to assuage concerns regarding displacement of people, saying the nod to raise the height of the Narmada dam was given after consulting the social welfare ministry.

"The social justice ministry has said they are totally satisfied with the rehabilitation measure being adopted," Bharti said when asked about the decision.

The NCA permission will allow the dam height to be raised from present 121.92 metres to 138.72 metres and the work is expected to be taken up after the monsoon.

Greenpeace India too slammed the announcement, saying it disregards the issues that peoples' movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan have been fighting for.

"This kind of witch-hunt is antithetical to the government's promise of inclusive development. With this, the BJP government in Gujarat has served a blow to the Narmada Bachao Andolan and all of us who stand in solidarity with the grave impact of the impacted communities and the environment. This seems to be the government's way of making it loud and clear that it's their way or the highway," said Abhishek Pratap, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India.

Added Himanshu Thakkar, coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams: "Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada river without this height increase. Both are not able to use even 20 percent of the water already available to them at the current height. This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even legal sanction."

The decision comes just a few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office.

The foundation stone for the SSP was laid by late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in April 1961.

Over the years, the project got embroiled in a series of controversies pertaining to rehabilitation of farmers, tribals and related issues.

Activists contend that raising the dam's height will displace an additional 2.5 lakh people.


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