In Madhya Pradesh’s Barwani district, the protest to demand rehabilitation and to protect lives and livelihoods of over 32,000 families has entered fourth day on Wednesday. Medha Patkar, alongside other women and locals, has been sitting on an “indefinite satyagraha [non-violent resistance]” following increase in the water levels of the Sardar Sarovar dam to over 134 metres leading to widespread flooding in over 192 villages of the region.
The protests had kicked off initially in the first week of August, when the Gujarat government had refused to open the gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam. The current site of the protest falls within the dam’s submergence area. Patkar said, “Rehabilitation does not mean giving Rs 5 lakh to the affected households. Members of the affected families also should be provided livelihood.”
“At least 1,000 residents of the Chhota Badda village are still waiting for proper rehabilitation,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), in a statement, said that since the rehabilitation has yet been not completed, the gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam should be opened so that settlements in its catchment area in Madhya Pradesh could be saved.
Speaking to NewsClick, Rohit who has been associated with NBA, said, “The dam’s water level should not be allowed to exceed beyond 133 metre-mark as Gujarat is no longer rain deficient and all its reservoirs have been filled. It will cause severe damage to the lives of the people and the cattle and their fields. We are expecting that the home minister of the state will be visiting us to discuss the issue. Until now, all the previous assurances by the local administration have fallen flat.”
People from the Koli community belonging to the Chhota Badta village have not been given any rehabilitation despite the death of five residents of the area. Speaking at the protest, a local, Anwar said, “We don’t think our neighbourhood can be saved from the ongoing flooding in the region. We had requested the authorities to take note of our grave situation, but to no avail.”
The protesters had also previously appealed to the government to conduct surveys in the region, They said, “These issues would have not cropped up if the government would have taken the initiative to conduct the surveys in due amount of time. Now, the fear of hectares of agricultural land being submerged in water is looming large, thousands of homes will have to be abandoned with the markets being deserted.”
In other adjoining villages such as Nisarpur, water levels have gone over 134 meters, leading to large-scale destruction in the area and in 40 other villages.
The people affected by the dam are demanding complete rehabilitation. The Gujarat government is willing to fill the reservoir on Sardar Sarovar dam up to the maximum limit of 138.68 metres, which will mean submergence for a huge portion of the affected area. The NBA has said that such action would be in violation of various orders of the Narmada Tribunal as well as the Supreme Court.
About 32,000 families in MP, Gujarat and Maharashtra are affected by the project. Previously, hundreds of people affected by the rising water level of Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh had come out on the National Highway-3 in Dhar district demanding proper rehabilitation on August 13. The protests were sparked off after five people of Rajghat village in Madhya Pradesh were electrocuted while trying to bring food to their families amid the flood. Two of the five died on the spot while others are undergoing treatment. Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited authorities had opened the floodgates to maintain the water level in the dam and water began approaching the villages of Madhya Pradesh.
Also read: MP Villagers Affected by Rising Waters of Sardar Sarovar Protest, Demand Rehabilitation