MoEF files Affidavit: Severe non-compliance concluded

Alleges non-co-operation by NVDA towards NCA

18th February, 2014: The Hon’ble Chief Justice of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Indore Shri A.K. Khanvilkar, today directed the Government of M.P. to constitute a high level committee under the Chief Secretary to discuss and resolve issues pertaining to the Indira Sagar (ISP) and Omkareshwar (OSP) Canals in the Narmada valley. The CJ directed that Medha Patkar and 4 other representatives of Narmada Bachao Andolan would be invited to a meeting of this Committee to be convened by the Chief Secretary at Bhopal in the 1st week of March, 2014 and attended by the Principal Secretary of Narmada Valley Development Department, Secretary, Agriculture and Water Resources, officials of MoEF from Bhopal and Delhi and the inputs / suggestions of NBA would be taken for compliance on various measures and resolution of issues raised by NBA in the PIL on the ISP and OSP Canals and the orders issued by the Hon’ble Court. Upon insistence to hear him, the CJ also permitted one representative of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh to be present in the meeting.

In its latest report filed on 17th February, in the ongoing PIL, the MoEF states that out of 36,000 ha in Phase – I, On-Farm Development (OFD) Works have been carried on just about 3700 hecatres and the same is abysmally disproportionate to the irrigation.  Committee views this as a serious dereliction from consideration of irrigation and drainage management. The Expert Committee has also observed serious lapses due to deficient design and planning, inadequate attention to operation maintenance , CD works and link drains not concurrently constructed, no restoration, even after breaches in Aug, 2013 till January 14 (even to this date). 

The Committee reported, through the Ministry, poor quality canal work causing severe damage to farmers, should result in imposing penalty on the contract agency.On the issues of Narmada Banks irrigated tract issues (in those villages in close proximity to the river, where 70-80% irrigation exists), Committee has reiterated NVDA that all works in these areas be deferred, until Committee takes a final view.The NVDA itself has accepted that 40 villages in Phase – III of ISP, Badwani District have 100% irrigation, but overlap with the ISP command area. Similarly, dozens of villages in the proposed OSP command are already irrigated in the tehsils of Maheshwar, Manawar, Dharampuri and Kukshi. About 88 villages in OSP and 31 in ISP, i.e. 31, 570 hecatres command is being re-irrigated.

MoEF has also taken a categorical position that as per the clearance of 1987 to the ISP and the Narmada Water Scheme, 1987 Narmada Control Authority (NCA) is empowered to monitor all projects on the Narmada river, including the ISP. The Ministry has taken serious objection to the approach of NVDA with regard to non-cooperation with NCA, non-provision of necessary data and documents and has stated that this constitutes breach of the conditions on which the environment clearance was granted.

It may be pertinent to note that the Hon’ble CJ issued a detailed order on 3rd January, 2014 and directed various state and central authorities including the Chief Secretary, Govt. of M.P., Principal Secretary, NVDD, Secretary, MoEF, Secretary, Expert Committee and Planning Commission to file point-wise replies to all issues highlighted in the Order. NBA submitted a detailed Action Plan and raised various issues such as environmental non-compliance, lack of land based rehabilitation, compensation to be granted for losses etc. which were taken on record by the Court and specific orders for compliance were issued.

Medha Patkar, appearing in person, pointed out the huge scale of impacts that have already occurred and are bound to occur in the coming monsoon due to non-implementation of the on-farm development (OFD) and command area development (CAD). Lack of adequate drainage works in numerous villages from Phase – I to Phase – IV of the Project, has ccaused massive losses, while the affected farmers are neither counted nor compensated.

During the hearing today, the Court took cognizance of the voluminous ‘Action Taken Report’ filed by the state government and the Affidavit of the MoEF which exposed the gaps and inadequacies in the canal and command area planning and execution works by NVDA, which has led to severe impacts on agricultural land and crop losses. The Court questioned the senior counsel for the state for the non-serious manner in which it has been treating the entire issue, especially in the light of the clear conclusions of the Expert Committee, MoEF, not just in the latest report, after its filed visit in January, 2014, but in a series of earlier reports, recommendations and clearance letters of the MoEF.

NBA appreciates the conciliatory approach adopted by the Hon’ble Chief Justice to resolve all the issues and hope that the meeting with the senior most officials of the state government and officials of the MoEF would lead to a fair, open and conclusive dialogue on various outstanding issues, so that the fruits of the project reach the actual beneficiaries, needy farmers in time and that there is no unnecessary losses to other farmers, whether through canal breaches or canal excavation in irrigated areas. The serious issues of rehabilitation with land and compensation for farmers losing less than 60% land would also be discussed in the upcoming meeting with the CS.

Hearing another application filed by Me. Virendra Patidar challenging the diversion of Omkareshwar reservoir (Narmada) waters through the Narmada – Kshipra Link, the Hon’ble Court expressed his opinion that that the state government cannot change the command area or original plan, without approval from the central sanctioning authorities i.e. MoEF and Planning Commission. The applicant was directed to raise the issues before the Monitoring Committee of MoEF.

The Hon’ble Court has listed the canals matter for further hearing on 24th March, by when parties must report back on the status of compliance. Dozens of affected farmers from different villages and Tehsils were present during the court proceedings, represented by Medha Patkar. Senior Counsel Shri Shekahr Bhargav appeared for the GoMP / NVDA. Mr. Vivek Sharan, appeared for the MoEF, Union of India.

Mukesh Bhagoria                 Vikam Ratan             Devkaurbai               Meera (09179148973)


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