U.S. Water News Online
NEW DELHI, India -- The India Supreme Court has cleared the
way for construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in central India,
rejecting concerns of environmentalists and rural aid groups that it
will flood villages and displace 20,000 people.
The $4 billion project has been stalled for four years as the Save
Narmada Campaign and other groups fought a legal battle to stop it.
Construction on the dam began 10 years ago and $1.74 billion has
been spent on the project.
The court in a 2-1 judgment said it was satisfied by the relief
and rehabilitation steps taken by the government to resettle
thousands of villagers displaced by the project.
The Save Narmada Campaign called the judgment ``a most illogical,
dangerous and anti-people verdict.''
``The court seems to have done a disservice to the Indian
constitution, Indian democracy and Indian people,'' it said in a
statement. ``The judgment is unjustifiable, reactionary and hence,
Medha Patkar, who heads the campaign, said the government had done
nothing for the poor people hit by the project. She wept at a press
conference in Bombay and said her organization would ``fight against
However, she ruled out violent protests to stop the construction.
In the past, thousands of protesters had courted arrest and staged
sit-in protests near the construction site in Madhya Pradesh state,
450 miles south of New Delhi.
The protesters included author Arundhati Roy, who donated to the
campaign $35,000 of the 1997 Booker Prize money she won for ``The God
of Small Things.'' She suggested alternative ways of achieving the
government's goals, such as rain water storage, building irrigation
canals, and finding other power-generating sources.
Authorities said the dam proposal will bring drinking water to 40
million people, irrigate land, and generate electricity.
The level of water in the Sardar Sarovar Dam was raised to 289
feet in February, and the Narmada River crept within 10 feet of
villages in three Indian states since then. But officials say power
cannot be generated until the dam is at least 360 feet high.
The Supreme Court said the government could raise the dam's height
up to 415 feet.
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