Mumbai: Social activist Medha Patkar and 37 villagers have been standing neck-deep in water on the banks of the Narmada river in a village in Madhya Pradesh (MP) to demand the rehabilitation of families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD), which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday on his 67th birthday.
As the BJP government in Gujarat plans a big bash to celebrate Modi’s birthday at SSD when he will dedicate the dam to the nation, “Patkar, with 30 women and seven men, continue to stand in neck-deep water in the Chota Barda village in MP to protest against the government’s failure in fully rehabilitating or paying compensation to the dam-affected families,” said Bilal Khan, an activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The Narmada Control Authority had ordered 30 gates of the Sardar Sarovar Project to be shut on June 16 so that the height of the dam could be increased to 138 metres from 122 metres. Modi will inaugurate the project after the opening of the 30 gates.
Khan said, “Water from Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams are being released and is expected to inundate the banks and the surrounding areas. But Medha and others will continue with their protest even though the water is rising.”
At a press conference in Mumbai recently, the NBA activists said, “The SSD cannot be celebrated as an achievement until every single family who sacrificed their land and livelihood for the project is rehabilitated as promised.”
Khan says, “While the prime minister puts on this show, the rising water levels will endanger the lives and livelihoods of project-affected persons living in the submergence zone of the SSD. While the government claims that rehabilitation work is complete and threatens to submerge areas in MP and Maharashtra where families still reside, the villagers cannot vacate their original villages as the rehabilitation sites are uninhabitable and without even basic families.” With rising waters, one town and 192 villages in the region besides Barwani, MP, could be submerged.