The Supreme Court'sthird verdict against the plea by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) to stop work on raising of the Sardar Sarovar Dam'sheight from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres means that the ?activists? would be left with no issue at all regarding construction work on the dam. Rehabilitation work might give them some peripheral publicity during the coming monsoon months but with the Prime Minister having taken up this issue through a systematic study of rehabilitation of the project affected families (PAFs), even that leeway appears to have vanished now.
The reason why one says so is that if the height of the dam is raised to 121.92 metres by the end of June this year, well before the flood season commences in the Valley, there will no more substantial cement concreting work left at the dam. The maximum height of the nearly 700 metres of the spillway portion of the 1600 metre long dam is 121.92 metres and once this is complete, the next stage would be raising of the steel gates over the spillway portion which will regulate the release of water from the dam downstream for the purpose of irrigation, drinking water supply and generation of hydro-electric power.
The Supreme Court, it may be recalled, refused on May 8 to grant the plea by the NBA to stop work on the dam till rehabilitation work was completed. This refusal will mean that major works on dam construction will be over by June 30,seven days before the date of the next hearing in the Supreme Court on July 7.
Medha Patkar has once again thundered she would now launch a ?do or die? struggle for her mission in view of the ?cruel? verdict of the Court.
On May 9, she became particularly virulent in her attack on the Supreme Court, reminding one of the abusive language used against the apex court after the October 18, 2000 verdict in favour of raising the height of the dam?then at 90 metres?to 95 metres. She had escaped contempt of court conviction then by the skin of the teeth while her novelist friend was convicted and sent to the Tihar jail in Delhi.
Since by July this year both the construction and rehabilitation, more particularly the former, will become virtual non-issues, activists will be left with little work in the Narmada Valley. They are, therefore, strongly advised to shift base to the Polavaram Project in Andhra Pradesh across the Godavari river, and the Pulichintala Project, also on the same river, being taken up with all seriousness by the Andhra Pradesh Government led by Dr. Y.S. Rajshekhar Reddy. Since both these projects will take about ten years each to be completed, there will be sufficient work for the NBA people, at least in case of Polavaram, in order to sustain their mission of opposing all developmental works in the country and issuing high voltage statements against these two projects.
The May 8 verdict also has a significant lesson for the Union Minister of Water Resources because there was no mention of the report Mr Soz and his two silent colleagues had prepared after ?arduous? journeys for 24 long hours across rehabilitation sites in Madhya Pradesh during the hot March months.
From the crest of the spillway portion of the dam, steel gates will rise for a further height of about 17 metres taking the final height to 138.68 metres. The erection of gates will take a year or more to be completed, but one would like to stress, by June 30 this year, the dam would be considered more or less complete despite the numerous hurdles raised by opponents of the dam.