Indian Supreme Court Gives Go Ahead for Controversial Dam

International Rivers Network strongly condemns today's majority
ruling by the Indian Supreme Court allowing construction to resume on
the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River. "The ruling is utterly
illogical and an insult to democracy and justice," said Patrick
McCully, Campaigns Director of International Rivers Network.

The Sardar Sarovar Project is one of the world's most controversial
dam projects and would forcibly displace more people than any other
infrastructure project in the world except for China's notorious
Three Gorges Dam. "Sardar Sarovar symbolizes an outdated and
internationally discredited approach to water management," Patrick
McCully added.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) filed their
case against Sardar Sarovar in 1994. The NBA presented the court
with evidence showing that the project will not work as planned, that
alternatives are available, that the necessary environmental studies
have not been done, and that proper rehabilitation of the hundreds of
thousands of people who would lose their livelihoods to the project
is impossible. The NBA have for more than a decade led a mass
campaign of non-violent resistance to the dam.

The court had stalled construction on the part-built dam wall for
most of the past six years. But the final ruling allows the height of
the dam to be raised by five meters immediately and then in further
five-meter stages based on approval from government committees which
have shown themselves to be controlled by pro-dam interests.

One of the three judges on the Supreme Court bench, Justice S.P.
Bharucha, issued a dissenting opinion stating that construction
should be stopped pending new environmental studies.

The court has given project authorities four weeks to draw up a plan
for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the 200,000 people to be
displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir. A resettlement plan for
Sardar Sarovar was supposed to have been completed in 1981. "If the
authorities can't produce a credible plan in nearly two decades, how
can they write one in a month?", Patrick McCully asks.

Several hundred thousand other people will lose -- or have already
lost -- their livelihoods to irrigation canals, housing for
construction workers, the desiccation of the river downstream of the
dam, and a wildlife reserve planned to compensate for the ecosystems
to be flooded.

Contact: Patrick McCully (510) 543-3317

IRN is a California-based environment and human rights organization
which supports the rights of communities facing the impacts of
destructive water projects and advocates for sustainable and
equitable water and energy management.

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