Madhya Pradesh dam project: PM asked to revoke ban


Bhopal : Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to revoke the “arbitrary order” of the central government to suspend the work on the Maheshwar hydro electric project.

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The union environment and forests ministry last week ordered the suspension of work on the 400 MW Maheshwar Project – the only private sector project on Narmada river – citing non-compliance of environmental norms.

The ministry found that no agriculture land was identified for rehabilitation of affected people. Out of the 22 villages that faced submergence threat, rehabilitation was completed in only one village, it noted. Also, two wildlife sanctuaries had not been developed as directed by it.

In a letter to the prime minister Wednesday, Chouhan said stopping the project at this juncture would result in a loss of 7.2 lakh units of power per day starting in November 2010 and denial of 360 million litres per day (MLD) water for the urban areas of Dewas and Indore districts.

An investment of over Rs.2,500 crore has been made on the power project and over Rs.517 crore have been spent for the water supply project so far.

Chouhan said since both power and water were vital for development, such an action was extremely detrimental to the planning and development process.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which was spearheading the protests against the venture, claimed that the project proponents had failed in rehabilitation of around 70,000 people in 61 villages affected by the project.

The letter said a senior-level committee appointed by the ministry itself brought to light the negative role of the NBA, but the ministry chose to disregard the recommendation of its own committee.

Chouhan said the ministry had imposed the condition that two wildlife sanctuaries be created to compensate for the submergence at Maheshwar though there was no forest land in the area to be submerged and, therefore, no wildlife of any kind.

He said the river project would cause submergence only after the gates are closed. Therefore, there was no need to suspend the work as fulfilment of the conditions could be ensured before the closure of the gates.

He said he attaches utmost importance to just and proper resettlement of the project-affected families and had given assurance that no submergence would be allowed unless the resettlement was completed.

The chief minister urged Singh to give serious attention to the matter in order to revoke the “arbitrary order” and, if necessary, convene a meeting to resolve the issue.