Three days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Sardar Sarovar Dam over Narmada River in Gujarat, activist Medha Patkar, who led a three-decade-long movement against the project, said that it is important to expose the government on its shortcomings before the 2019 general elections.
Stating that the struggle is not over and that over 40,000 families to be rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh alone, Patkar said that exposing the gross corruption in the name of development without planning and hoax data ‘propagated’ by government needs to be highlighted.
Sardar Sarovar Dam, considered one of the largest such project in the world, aims to benefit three states– Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh (M.P) and Maharashtra. The dam, that can store water upto 138.63 metres and 141 meters during floods, has an installed power generation capacity of 1,450 MW. It aims to irrigate 1.8 million hectare in Gujarat benefitting 1 million farmers and provide drinking water to 9490 villages and 173 towns affecting 30 million people.
However, the project faced strong opposition through an over 30-year-long ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ led by Patkar, that pointed out the human rights violations, displacements and other deletrious impacts of the project.
Patkar said that while Madhya Pradesh has surplus electricity and Gujarat has surplus water, the project only aims to benefit industries such as Coca Cola at the cost of drowning the entire tribal civilisation of the Narmada valley.
“Its very important to expose them (Modi and government) before 2019. What happens after that we’ll face for next five years… the game of numbers that they had played, the wrong figures projected need to be told,” Patkar said here in a symposium ‘The fallacy of Sardar Sarovar Dam and development debate today”.
She further added that it will take a lifetime to rehabilitate those displaced in three states due to the project.
She also criticised the Supreme Court for allowing the dam’s construction and leaders like Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for their lack of empathy and lack of knowledge and apparent socio-environmental impact of the project.