Sardar Sarovar - Don't raise the Damn Wall!
MELANIE GOSLING (Environment Writer)
ABOUT 300 people protested outside the Indian consulate in Johannesburg on Saturday where they handed over a petition condemning proposals to increase the height of the massive Sardar Sarovar of the Narmada River in India. They were led by India's high profile anti-dams activist Medha Patkar, who is in the country to attend a conference on Social Justice Strategies of Labour, Communities,
Women and Environmentalism.
Patkar told the Cape Times that the Indian government had decided on Friday to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar dam in western India from 90m to 95m. "This will flood more than 8000 families and is absolutely illegal. It is in violation of a Supreme Court judgement of October 2000 which said that the dam could not be higher than 90m," Patkar said. The Sardar Sarovar dam, one of about 30 big dams planned for the Narmada River, is the largest. Patkar said 3 500 families had already been affected by the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, who had not been resettled nor had they been compensated. "Now if they raise the dam wall higher, 8 000 families will be affected. They will have their houses and their lands flooded. The government has no land for resettlement, so these people will be landless," Patkar said. The petition was supported by about 300 delegates from the conference, attended by abour, social and environmental groups. The delegates said in the petition handed to staff at the Indian consulate: "The issue of human rights extends far beyond the borders of any country. We appeal that the Indian government reverses their decision - or face condemnation at a global level."
The World Bank, which originally financed the construction of Sardar Sarovar dam, later pulled out of the project after an independent review committee, which the bank had set up, endorsed most of the concerns which people had raised about the dam. Award-winning Indian author Arundhahti Roy has been a strong supporter of the movement against damming the Narvada River.
Patkar was one of the commissioners on the World Commission of Dams, a two-year project which reviewed and assessed the costs and benefits of big dams worldwide. The commission found that while big dams had brought many benefits, they had often done so at high social and environmental costs. Many of them had fallen short of their economic targets. Cape Times 20/5/02 Melanie Gosling Environment Reporter Cape Times
Lori Pottinger, Director, Africa Program, and Editor, World Rivers Review
International Rivers Network 1847 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, California 94703, USA
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