As the water level rises in the submergence area of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada rose across Barwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh on Friday, activists claimed that many people are still staying put in submerged areas.
The level of water is steadily rising since the closure of the gates of the dam, located in neighbouring Gujarat,began in July with activists alleging that affected families have not been fully rehabilitated or paid compensation People affected by the project led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar today staged a 'Jal Satyagraha' at Chota Barda village here.
Several villages, including low-level areas in Nisarpur town, were submerged as the water level rose to 128.3 meters. However, Indore Divisional Commissioner Sanjay Dubey said people were leaving their houses voluntarily, and over 300 were taken to safer places.
The water level is rising gradually, but there was nosudden flooding, he said. "People are willingly vacating their houses. We have pressed the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) into service to help them and to monitor the situation," Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Kukshi, Rishabh Gupta, said.
"The water level was recorded at 128 meters this morningand it has risen to 128.3 meters now," he said. The NBA along with some other organisations took out aprotest march from Anjad to Chhota Barda.
CPM leaderSubhashini Ali and convener of the National Alliance of People's Movement Arundhati Dhuru took part in it.
"The prime minister is scheduled to inaugurate the(completed) Sardar Sarovar Project on his birthday onSeptember 17, so the gates were closed to ensure that he seesthe reservoir filled with water," Dhuru said.
There has been no proper rehabilitation and most peopleare staying put even when water has entered their houses, shealleged. Himshi Singh, an activist, claimed that the water isflowing 5 feet above a bridge at Rajghat on the banks ofNarmada and another bridge on Baghni river in Nisarpur.
The Narmada's water have submerged standing crops inRajghat, she alleged. "Initially authorities said Rs 5.8 lakh would be paid toevery ousted person for construction of a house.
Now they haveadded a rider, saying this would be only for the beneficiariesof the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana," she said. Chikhalda, Dharamray and Kakrana villages are alsopartially submerged, besides parts of Nisarpur town.
Mohan Prajapat, a resident of Nisarpur, refused to leavethis morning even as water entered his house. Sitting on a half-submerged cot, he told reporters, "Ihaven't got the compensation yet.
I will leave only whencompensation is paid." SDM Gupta, however, said Rs 3 lakh had already been transferred to his account.
"The remaining Rs 2.80 lakh wouldbe paid after the demolition of his existing house. He agreedto shift. The NDRF team has shifted him," Gupta said.
"We have increased surveillance (to look for strandedpeople) as the water level is rising. We have deployed 12boats at Dharamray, Nisarpur, Chikhalda, Karodiya, Koteshwarand other places," NDRF team leader Buddharam Dewasi said.
The Sardar Sarovar Project, launched in 1961, got delayeddue to several reasons.
The construction was suspended in 1996after NBA activists obtained a stay from the Supreme Court over environmental and rehabilitation issues.
The apex court allowed resumption of work in October 2000, while imposing conditions regarding rehabilitation. The closing of gates which began in phases in July, the height of one of the biggest water reservoirs in the country will be 138 meters with a storage capacity of 4.75 million cubic meters.
The NBA claimed that 40,000 families in 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh would be displaced when the reservoir is filled to its optimum capacity. However, the government has said that 18,386 families in 141 villages would be affected.