Gandhinagar (Gujarat): In a significant decision, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared an eight-year-old proposal to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by 17 metres, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel announced Thursday.
“The NCA has granted approval to raise the dam height to 138 metres,” Patel said at a function in Junagadh Thursday afternoon, even as anti-dam activists protested the move.
“Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon. PM Narendra Modi. The decision pending has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa gaye hain!!” she confirmed on Twitter, before leaving to Kevadia for a visit to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) site.
The decision will come as a boon to Gujarat, which regularly faces water crises because of deficient or sparse rainfall, though Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar and the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) bitterly criticised the move.
The NCA permission will allow the dam height to be raised from the present 121.92 metres to 138.72 metres and the work is expected to be taken up after the monsoon.
The decision comes just a few days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office.
However, the NBA and SANDRP have questioned the decision which they claim could lead to submergence of thousands of hectares of land, displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers in three states – Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
“It is shocking that all the officials of the central and state governments and all the concerned ministers (including Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in addition to Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers) have toed the line dictated by Prime Minister Modi and the Gujarat government in this regard, within two weeks of new government taking over,” said SANDRP’s spokesperson Himanshu Thakkar.
He said that no additional rehabilitation could have been accomplished in these two weeks, which seems to indicate that a political decision has been taken without considering the ground realities, merits or justification of the decision or necessity of the decision.
“The Sardar Sarovar Dam at its present height itself has two lakh people in its affected region. So if the height is raised by installing 17 meters high gates, the densely populated villages in Nimad (Madhya Pradesh) with houses, farms, shops, religious places, and standing crops will face a watery grave,” said Patkar in Mumbai.
“It is an absolutely obnoxious contrast that the new government (headed by Modi) has not given us any hearing, nor has it taken any time, or made any attempt to know the ground reality, before deciding to go forward with SSP dam construction to its final height,” Patkar added.
SANDRP claimed that Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from the Narmada River without increasing the height and are not able to use even 20 percent of the water already available at the present height.
“This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even a legal sanction. The only additional benefit that the height increase can provide is about 10-20 percent additional power generation in which Gujarat’s share is only 16 percent, while 57 percent goes to Madhya Pradesh and the rest 27 goes to Maharashtra,” Thakkar pointed out.
SANDRP said that if Gujarat had built the necessary canals and water distributions in Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat, Narmada River waters would have reached these regions even eight years ago, without increasing the dam height as permitted by NCA Thursday.
Today’s decision came barely 48 hours after tribals under the NBA banner led a huge protest march to the Nandurbar collector in Maharashtra demanding proper rehabilitation for 1,000 tribal families who are yet to be rehabilitated with land, houses, plots, irrigation and other facilities.
The NBA has also demanded full-fledged health facilities and rationing with regularity and boat service in every village, because people have faced death or destruction without these since last year.
Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin
Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.
The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.
Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.
Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.
Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.
Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told
The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.
The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.
Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.
“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.
DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.
Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.
The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.
But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.
Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.
It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.
Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus
New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.
Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.
The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.
In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.
According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.
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