Officials concede Narmada dam illegal

A director of the government agency responsible for India’s controversial Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam has admitted that the construction of the dam to the height of 121.9 metres has led to the illegal submergence of houses and farms.

The Bhil tribal people are among those affected.

It is illegal for the government to allow people’s houses and farms to be submerged due to a dam without properly resettling them. But many of the families displaced by the dam have been left without homes or land.

Shri Afroz Ahmad of the Narmada Control Authority also admitted that since many families have not been resettled, plans to further increase the height of the dam cannot go ahead. More than 500 protesters, including tribal people, farmers and fisher folk gathered in November to demand that the dam’s height should be immediately reduced to 110m.

Those who have been ousted from their homes, supported by the organisation Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), have battled for more than twenty years against the building of the Narmada dam. Every year when villages are submerged during the monsoon rains, tribal people, other displaced families and their supporters have stood neck deep in water to protest against the dam and the government’s catastrophic failure to provide proper resettlement. They have sworn to drown rather than move.

Survival welcomes the admission that the dam has been built illegally, and calls for its height to be immediately reduced and for the tribal people whose homes are already underwater to be given alternative land.