The Narmada saga

Published : May 05, 2006 00:00 IST

1947: The Central Waterways Irrigation and Navigation Commission, acting on the request of the Central Provinces, Berar (now part of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra) and the Government of Bombay, begins a study of the Navagram project (renamed Sardar Sarovar Project in 1978) for developing the Narmada river system. (In 1959, the CWINC, now called Central Water and Power Commission (CWPC), submits proposal to the Bombay government.

1961 April: Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurates project.

1969 October: The Ramaswami Tribunal (Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal) appointed to assess Narmada flow.

1978 August: The NWDT issues its final order, subject to studies by expert bodies such as Planning Commission.

Arjun Singh, now Human Resource Development Minister, starts the Nimar Bachao Andolan in the Nimar valley in Madhya Pradesh, but abandons it in 1980 after he becomes a Minister.

1979: The NWDT rules that electricity and energy benefits are to be shared by Madhya Pradesh (57 per cent), Mah arashtra (27 per cent) and Gujarat (16 per cent).

December 12: The NWDT order is gazetted.

1985 February: World Bank presents the conclusions of its study on SSP.

May: Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh sign an agreement with the World Bank for a $450-million loan.

1986 February: Medha Patkar establishes the Narmada Dharangrastra Samiti at Dhulia. It becomes the NBA in 1989 with the merger of several local organisations.

1987: Construction of dam begins.1988: NBA takes a no-dam stance.

August 18: Dam oustees from the three States, along with activists, launch a non-cooperation movement against survey and construction work.

October 18: Gujarat government clamps the Official Secrets Act in 12 villages; keeps it in force for five months.

1989 September 28: 30,000 oustees hold a rally at Harsud .

1990 March 6: More than 10,000 people led by Baba Amte block the Khalghat bridge on the Narmada, paralysing traffic on the Mumbai-Agra highway for 28 hours.

December 25: NBA activists and 3,000 oustees go on a Long March' from Rajghat town to dam site. After eight days they reach Ferkuwa village on the Gujarat border, where they face pro-dam activists and the police. Medha Patkar and six others begin a fast, which lasts 22 days.

1991 August: Satyagraha at Manibeli, the first village to be affected in Maharashtra; 62 people arrested. The NBA is declared illegal in 33 villages of Maharashtra.

1992 June: The report of the Morse Commission, set up by the World Bank, indicts the Bank on many counts.

1993 March/April: World Bank withdraws loan.

August 5: Centre constitutes review panel for SSP.

November: The police open fire on demonstrators in Chinchkhedi, attack rally in Dhulia protesting against the killing of Rehmal Puniya Vasava, 15, in the firing.

1994 May: NBA files case against project in apex court.

December: Following 23 days of fasting by Medha Patkar in Bhopal, Digvijay Singh government in Madhya Pradesh decides not to support further construction.

Supreme Court orders the government-commissioned review to be made public.

1995 January 1: Construction of spillway on SSP halted.

1998 September 3: The World Commission on Dams (WCD) informs the Gujarat Chief Minister of the visit of six commissioners to affected villages and a resettlement colony and requests that officials be deputed to accompany them. The Chief Minister replies that a self-appointed body had no business to study projects in India.

September 10: The WCD calls off visit on the advice of the Indian government.

October: Task Force set up by Madhya Pradesh government submits its report - one on the Maheshwar project and one overall. The Maheshwar report calls for a complete review of the cost-benefit viability and stoppage of work. The report gives a framework of viable alternatives. The government declines to implement any of them.

1999 January: Final hearing of case begins in apex court.

February: Supreme Court allows the dam height to be raised from 80.3 metres to 85 metres and the humps of safety up to three metres.

March: Joint surveys by oustees and Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra governments show that land is not available for rehabilitation. Gujarat refuses to accept them.

April: Two German companies withdraw from the Maheshwar project.

June 28: Villages in Madhya Pradesh receive first notices stating that the water level will be more than 113 metres.

August 25: Supreme Court hearing, postponed all along, finally takes place. Court defers decisions.

September: Monsoon submergence in affected villages.

2000 October: Supreme Court verdict allows SSP height to be raised by two metres and to continue stage-by-stage construction in accordance with the NWDT Award.

2002 May: The NCA gives permission for 95 metres plus three-metre humps.

2004 January: Maharashtra government resists raising the dam height until all oustees in the State are given R&R.

March: The NCA gives clearance till 110.64 metres. Affected people from Madhya Pradesh file petitions demanding a stay on construction.

2005 March: Supreme Court says there is no difference between those affected by temporary submergence and permanent submergence.

2006 March 8: The NCA permits the raising of dam height to 121.92 metres from 110.64 m.

March 28: Medha Patkar and two other activists go on fast saying the R&R is behind schedule.

April 15: The six-member Review Committee of the NCA is split on party lines on the issue of construction. The matter is referred to the Prime Minister, who passes it on to the Supreme Court.

April 16: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi begins a 51-hour fast.

April 17: A three-Judge bench says the Centre, the Prime Minister and the three States should resolve the matter in accordance with the Supreme Court judgements of 2000, 2005 and the NWDTA. The court asks the three States to provide an assessment of the R&R. Adjourns matter to May 1.

Medha Patkar and Narendra Modi end fast.
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