Dams have worsened flood situation, says Medha Patkar

GARGI PARSAI, THE HINDU, AUGUST 22, 2006
“Overflowing Narmada dam has hit livelihood of tribals”
• Simultaneous releases from all dams in a river basin should have been planned for
• Much to learn from the floods in this monsoon, she says

Photo: SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY
medha-aug2006.jpg
MAKING A POINT: Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.
NEW DELHI: Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar on Tuesday alleged that the overflowing Narmada dam, with its raised height, had destroyed the tribal communities in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra, Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh and many families in Badwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh.
“Our worst fears have come true in the Narmada valley where people face submergence from the raised Narmada dam. The generations-old tribal communities in the Satpura and Vindhya ranges have lost their main source of livelihood and land to the `sea’ that the roaring river water around them has turned into. Yet even after they have been pushed into a corner with no food or potable water, they continue with their struggle asserting their right to land and life,” she said here at a press conference.
“It is not just the Narmada but the Tapi, the Krishna, the Godavari and other small and large rivers are in spate with land and fields under waters. `Doob’ (submergence) was experienced by even those urban dwellers who might have denounced the struggle of the dam-affected families in the Narmada valley and ridiculed their pain and suffering. While there is nothing to rejoice, there is much to learn from the experience of floods this monsoon. Contrary to the case made out for large dams for controlling floods, this monsoon has shown that the flood situation has worsened with dams.”
Cumulative effect
Ms. Patkar pointed out that the problem could not be “unexpected” as any dam was planned with 1:100 year presumed rainfall.
Not just one dam and one river but the cumulative effect of all dams, rivers and tributaries in a river basin had to be taken into consideration.
“The simultaneous releases from all dams in a river basin should have, therefore, been planned for. What we witness, instead is that the very technocrats and bureaucrats who plum for inter-linking of rivers, hide behind the pretext of failure in timely releases from dams for the floods. This is in contrast to their claims — when justifying construction of big dams — of perfection in monitoring water flows and scientific assessment of their impact. The same has happened with the Narmada Sagar and Sardar Sarovar dam.”
Villages under threat
She said that in the Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh, the Narmada dam threatened over 100 of the 177 villages.
With resettlement and rehabilitation sites and house plots not ready for thousands of families, the mega Sardar Sarovar dam was proving to be as “destructive” as several other dams in the country from where unregulated water releases had caused floods leading to loss of life and property and livelihood.

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