First Post, June 23 2017, New Delhi: A group of activists, including Medha Patkar, on Friday met Union minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and expressed concern over the impact of closing of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam on villagers affected by the project on the Narmada river.

 The Narmada Bachao Andolan activist and others met the minister here and urged that the Centre carry out a “proper assessment” of the people affected by the dam so that they can be rehabilitated accordingly.

The Gujarat government had on 17 June got permission from the Centre to shut the gates of the controversy-hit structure, marking the “completion” of the project.

The closing of the gates would pose a threat to about 244 villages and 40,000 families, mostly in Madhya Pradesh, which would face flooding. Many projected-affected people have not been rehabilitated and the government has not really done anything concrete for them, Patkar alleged.

Gehlot said the Centre was working in the direction of providing proper rehabilitation.

“The government is committed to rehabilitating all people affected by the project and they shall be rehabilitated. But, I request all people to understand that this project is in the interest of the country,” the minister told PTI.

The project, which was inaugurated in 1961, got delayed due to several reasons, one of the prominent being opposition to it by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by Patkar.

The construction work for the dam was suspended in 1996 after the NBA activists obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court, raising environmental and rehabilitation issues.

It was only after the apex court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of the construction of the dam that the work on it resumed.

However, the court had set a condition that permission to increase the dam height would be given in parts after the project-affected people (PAP) are resettled or compensated.

The Sardar Sarovar project will provide irrigation facilities to 18.45 lakh hectares of land, covering 3,112 villages of 73 talukas in 15 districts of Gujarat, through a canal network.