Supreme Court lets dam work go on, says wait for Prime Minister on rehab

EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

July 7 is next hearing: We will survey entire area with NSSO help for rehab, says Centre

NEW DELHI, MAY 8: Work on raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam will continue. The Supreme Court today refused to grant the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s request for staying the raising of the height from 110 to 121 m and left it to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to find a solution to the controversy over relief and rehabilitation of the project-affected families.
“We hope and expect the Prime Minister will be able to take a decision on or before July 3 and the decision taken shall be placed on record,” said a bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice S B Sinha. The next hearing is on July 7.
The order came after Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told the court that the PM had constituted a panel comprising former Comptroller and Auditor General V K Shunglu, ex JNU Vice Chancellor G K Chaddha and Convenor of NGO Loksatta Dr Jay Prakash Narayan to oversee the rehabilitation work.
The committee, he said, had tied up with National Sample Survey Organisation and constituted teams which would collect data of the affected people and status of relief works.
He assured the court that the committee’s survey would not be restricted to any sample and would cover almost the entire area where rehabilitation was being done.
On the need for the survey, he said, “We must have some empirical data and it should be available by middle of June. That would show if relief and rehabilitation can be completed by June 30. Based on that, the Government may take an appropriate decision.”
Agreeing with him, the court observed, “We will also be in a better position to know the facts (by then).” It also asked “all parties concerned” to “fully co-operate with the survey teams” and “not to cause any obstruction”.
Earlier, NBA counsel Shanti Bhushan contended that as per the earlier SC order, rehabilitation work had to be completed well in advance before the dam height was raised.
However, the ASG pointed out that the SC order had thrown up two situations. “If rehabilitation had to be pari pasu (simultaneous) the work, then it was enough that people were resettled by June 30. But if what the court meant was that it should be completed a year in advance, then clearly work could not go on.”
The ASG also discredited the report of the Group of Ministers on the rehabilitation work saying it was “not entirely accurate”.
“A blanket statement could not be made that there are no rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh with basic amenities. They are there but in some clusters. In others, after the court’s last order, work has picked up.”
Appearing for MP, Senior Counsel Harish Salve “agreed” that people in as many as 110 villages had not moved out.
But this was because they were being told to hang on as that would get them a “sweeter deal” and also because of their attachment to the land, he claimed.
Salve added that their unwillingness to move could also be because of the results of a study by the Central Water Commission that the possibility of about 26 villages going under water was likely only once in 100 years.
Construction, so far
• Work to raise height from 110.64 m to 121.92 m began on March 8, 2006.
• Of the 64 blocks on the dam, work is on in 22 blocks in the dam’s mid-section: Blocks 29 to 51
• In 18 blocks, height raised to 114.6 m as of May 8.
• In 4 blocks, height raised to 116.20 m.
• 62,700 cubic metres of concrete poured.
• SSP authorities say height will be up to 121.92 m by June 30.

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