“The people of the Narmada Valley are being pushed towards death,” said Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) describing the situation of over 192 villages in the state of Madhya Pradesh currently grappling with the increase in water levels. Meanwhile, the government of Gujarat refuses to open the gates of Sardar Sarovar dam in Kevadiya in Narmada district of Gujarat. The increase in the water level has put at stake the lives of over 32,000 families living in the region. With villages submerged in water, and a huge loss of cattle and livelihood, an indefinite protest organised by NBA has been ongoing for over ten days now.
Speaking to NewsClick, Rohit Singh, member of NBA, said, “Currently, the situation is going from bad to worse exposing the lack of preparedness and political will on behalf of the MP government. In villages such as Nisarpur, over 350 houses have been completely submerged under water.” The increase in the levels of the dam to its full capacity of 139 meters is also adversely affecting over 33 villages in Maharashtra and over 19 villages in Gujarat.
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Reportedly, in Kathardedigar, Maharashtra, almost every house is under water. Villagers are in shock as huge loss of grains and agricultural lands have been reported, along with the death of cattle. As the crisis worsens, the activists on the ground have alleged that the Kamal Nath led Congress government in the state is attempting to suppress the ongoing movement. Cases have been registered against fifteen protesting persons for blocking the National Highway-3 in Dhar district in protest demanding proper rehabilitation on August 13. Additionally, over 400 cases have been filed against unknown persons for the same. Singh added, “The state is trying its best to suppress the movement, but we have been building momentum across villages to demand our rightful rehabilitation in this situation of utmost urgency.”
The protesters had blocked the highway for over six hours on August 13. They had also written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi challenging him to take immediate action on the situation. The highway blockade was started 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 under 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. However, as per the statement of NBA, "The latest news against is that Gujarat is playing with the situation and has closed 10 out of 25 gates it had opened. This has led to a rise in the water level in the reservoir of the dam. This would mean submergence of densely populated villages and can prove calamitous." The protesters are demanding the immediate opening of the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, as the water has reached higher than the permissible 130.1 m mark.
NBA leader Medha Patkar said the news is “shocking”, calling it a “brutal strategy to claim achievement in filling the reservoir up to 138.68 meters (full reservoir level).” Patkar claimed, “This will lead to a fast rise in the water level in the Sardar Sarovar Dam. If it reaches the highest level, then a large number of families of farmers, adivasis, fisherpeople, herdsmen etc, up to 32,000, will face a water calamity. It will not be mob lynching but mass lynching.”
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Previously, the government had agreed to the demands of rehabilitation, which included that the members of the movement should be a part of the committee, however, that did not yield any results. The protesters are stating that they want the Narmada Control Authority to “be woken up from their slumber” and to rehabilitate the people. They have warned against any development in the region that will have disastrous consequences on the lives of the people.
*This is a developing story.