State now tells green tribunal that developer did not release sufficient funds for resettlement and rehabilitation work
In a surprising turn of events, the Madhya Pradesh government has admitted before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) work of Maheshwar dam oustees is severely neglected. The government, in its submission, blamed private project proponent Shri Maheshwar Hydel Power Company Limited (SMHPCL), a company of the S Kumar’s group, for not releasing R&R funds. The submission made on November 22, which places a letter from the MP Power Management Company on record, states that out of the Rs 740 crore total cost of rehabilitation, only Rs 203.42 crore (27 per cent) has been provided till date.
A press note issued by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a people's movement fighting for rehabilitation rights of the oustees, says the government submission makes it clear that earlier submissions, in the form of letters issued by the state secretary for energy Mohammad Suleman, one of which, issued in March 2011, claimed that 70 per cent of R&R work of Maheshwar dam has been completed, were false. The note accused government of first issuing false certification to protect the interests of private promoters and then trying to brush off its own responsibility in this regard by claiming that it is just an agent of the private project proponent.
It may be mentioned here that NBA has earlier pointed out that out of the 60,000 people displaced by the dam, only 15 per cent have been given any kind of rehabilitation package, while not a single person has been given the 2 ha land mandated by the rehabilitation policy, even while 90 per cent of the work of the dam is complete. “The submission regarding just 27 per cent funds being released confirms our contention,” says Alok Agarwal of NBA.
“The worst part is that now it is proved that the state government was all along aware that rehabilitation work was being sidelined, and was hand-in-glove with the private proponent all along,” he added. He said that NBA will challenge the earlier fraudulent certifications before the NGT in future hearings.
NGT orders review of submergence
In its November 22 order, the NGT ordered the committee constituted by MoEF to look into rehabilitation of Maheshwar dam oustees to visit the dam affected areas to assess damage caused by the filling up of the reservoir up to 155.5 metre on August 7 and 8 this year. On August 9, NGT had permitted SMHPCL to fill the reservoir up to 154 metre, on the condition that there will be no submergence of inhabited land, and had directed state government to complete the rehabilitation process in three months and file and affidavit in this regard. However, government has not carried out the requisite process. Also, hundreds of houses were submerged after the dam was filled up to 154 metre, according to petitioner Antar Singh.
The NBA press note stated that power generated from the Maheshwar dam has turned out to be the most expensive in the country, having been assessed at Rs 9.97 per unit by the Central Electricity Authority. On the other hand, hardly any work has been done to rehabilitate the oustees of the project. Calling the project unviable on all counts, the NBA has demanded that government scrap the project. “It is clear that the proponent has failed to deliver on all counts,” said Agarwal, “And it is only fair that government should scrap its power purchase agreement with the proponent and the public financing agencies who have invested in the project should recover their money.”