THANKS to poor rainfall in the area, the fear of Manibeli being inundated by monsoon-fed waters of the Narmada has receded temporarily. According to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists, work on the dam seems to have slowed down considerably and they estimate the height of the dam now at about 33 m, which is 12 m short of expectations.
Meanwhile, the Centre remains noncommittal in statements made in Parliament. The Gujarat assembly, in contrast, rejected the report prepared by the Morse committee, an independent commission set up by the World Bank to review the project. The Gujarat government has decided to set up its own state environment commission.
The Morse panel had recommended the World Bank should pull out of the project, but the Bank justified continued funding of the project on the grounds that its involvement would ensure the recommendations are implemented.
However, pressure is building up from even major donor countries. In the USA, the head of the Congressional subcommittee on environment has asked the World Bank to immediately withdraw its support and, in the Bank's own interest, halt funding the project. The European parliament has urged member countries to instruct their national governments on the bank's governing body to vote against all fresh proposals to provide further financial assistance to the Sardar Sarovar project. The Nordic countries have also stated publicly that they would not support fresh funding until rehabilitation and environmental standards are fully met by the Indian government.
As the Gujarat government prepares to defend the Narmada project at all costs, NBA has been energised by the Morse report. In August, NBA organised a national convention in the Capital. The battle over the Narmada project will clearly go on for a long time to come.
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