Taken at the flood

Published: Monday 31 May 1993

-- In a significant ruling in April this year, the Gujarat High Court clarified its stay on the eviction of inhabitants in the Sardar Sarovar project catchment area also prohibits removal of villagers on account of floods during the coming monsoons. In a recent hearing of a public interest petition filed by the Lok Adhikar Sangh, an Ahmedabad-based voluntary organisation of lawyers, the court instructed the state government to ensure the 13 villages in the catchment area are not flooded as this would compel the residents to move out and would be tantamount to forcible eviction.

Anti-dam environmentalists have been a little cautious in their response to the ruling. Says Girish Patel, who appeared in court on behalf of the petitioners, "The judgement will certainly boost our morale." Patel pointed out that the state government would now be bound by law to keep the temporary sluice gates open to slow down the flooding of the catchment area behind the proposed dam. However, he also drew attention to the state government's reluctance to share other vital information, such as the present constructed height of the dam, which may reveal the need for further measures for flood control. "This is an indication that the state government may not fully want to commit itself to the court's ruling," argues Patel.

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