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ToxicsWatch Alliance Expresses Solidarity with Jalsatyagrahis protesting displacement from construction of Omarkeshwar Dam

Written By Krishna on Saturday, September 08, 2012 | 2:43 AM

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) Expresses Solidarity with Jalsatyagrahis in Madhya Pradesh

8th September 2012

ToxicsWatch Alliance supports the demands of the Jal Satyagrahis protesting displacement due to the construction of Omarkeshwar Dam in Ghoghalgaon, Khandwa District of Madhya Pradesh without providing them the rehabilitation mandated by the Supreme Court. They have been standing in neck deep water to protest the rising dam waters. It is a disgrace that the State Government has failed thus far to implement the rehabilitation measures ordered by the Supreme Court.

The water level of the Omarkeshwar Dam, part of the Narmada Valley Project, built by the Narmada Hydrolectric Development Corporation, has been increased from 189 metres to 193 metres on 25th August. This would contribute to the submergence of an estimated 30 villages and adversely affect the livelihood of about 52,000 people. The enhancement of water level has been carried out without rehabilitating those who have lost their land to earlier submergence.

This is a violation of the commitment made by the Government in court. In May 2011, the Apex Court ruled that the authorities are obliged to allot a land for land and a minimum of 2 hectares of land, well in advance of the completion of dam construction. Although an entire year has passed since the judgment, the State has failed to allot land to the over 2500 land-holder families. The NHDC continues to flout the Rehabilitation Policy with the full knowledge of the state government, in violation of the Supreme Court and the High Court orders. Even the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) has ruled in no uncertain terms that land must be given in lieu of land.

In post Independence India over 60 million have been forcibly driven out of their lands in this manner, starting with the Bhakhra Nangal Dam, that was celebrated by Nehru as "Temple of Modern India. Even when in recent years, authorities have promised rehabilitation after long drawn legal battles and struggles by displaced people, governments have brazenly flouted these orders. This is not only morally wrong but also undermines the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution.

ToxicsWatch Alliance supports the main demands of the protesters that the state government should:

1. Stop increasing the water level at the Omkareshwar Dam;
2. Immediately undertake a census of the evicted villagers and audit of the rehabilitation measures;
3. Take all required steps to provide dignified rehabilitation for the affected villagers who have lost their land to the project, on the basis of land in lieu for land policy;
4. Provide the required medical assistance to the villagers who have stayed under water for 14 days.

TWA salutes the courage of villagers who are fighting this heroic battle as well as the NBA activists who have given voice to these marginalized and oppressed rural communities.
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