SC orders land compensation

Recognizes rights of people affected by Narmada canals  

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Monday 31 May 2010

Families that lost 60 per cent or more land to canal construction for the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dam projects in Khandwa and Khargone districts of Madhya Pradesh should be given cultivable land as compensation, the Supreme Court has ordered. In doing so, the court acknowledged the rights of families affected by canal construction as a category separate from those affected by dam reservoir submergence.

The May 5 order rejected Madhya Pradesh government’s claim that families whose lands are acquired for canals are not entitled to compensation as they would benefit from canal irrigation. As per official figures, about 2,800 families would lose more than 25 per cent of their landholdings to canal construction. In February, the apex court had allowed canal work to resume by reversing a Madhya Pradesh High Court order of November 2009. The high court had stayed the work indefinitely till all rehabilitation measures are taken and the expert committee (Devendra Pandey committee) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (moef) reviewed the command area development (cad) plans. The apex court had specified its order would be subject to the expert panel’s findings.

The expert committee’s report submitted to the ministry last month has said the cad plan of the two projects are inadequate and incomplete. The non-profit, Narmada Bachao Andolan (nba), has demanded the ministry should issue stop-work notice immediately. “There are no cad plans, no comprehensive or reliable data, no rehabilitation plans. How can canal work go on?” asked Medha Patkar of nba. She said she appreciated the apex court order recognizing rights of canal affected families but would continue with the legal battle for all the rights of people affected by the Narmada projects.

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