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Environment ministry promises action against Narmada dam builder

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said that his ministry will issue a show cause notice to the company working on the Maheshwar dam in the Narmada valley in view of the large scale protests of people there who have been affected because of the work, but not rehabilitated.

A group of about 500 people, under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, reached the capital Tuesday to protest against the dam construction. A smaller group went to meet the minister with their complaints.

Alok Agarwal, one of the protesters, said: ‘Our demand is that the environment ministry should immediately suspend the construction work on the Maheshwar dam project, which has far outstripped the progress of the rehabilitation and resettlement measures.’

According to Agarwal, the Maheshwar dam, built on the Narmada river Madhya Pradesh, is slated to submerge the lands and the homes of 50,000-70,000 peasants, fishermen and landless workers in 61 villages.

The project was privatised and handed over to the S. Kumar’s Group of Companies in 1992. The environmental clearances were issued in 1994 and then again in 2001.

‘The binding provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, held the state government of Madhya Pradesh and S. Kumar’s Group of Companies accountable for the rehabilitation of the villagers. A comprehensive rehabilitation plan was to be submitted by December 2001 but it has not been done till date,’ Agarwal said.

‘When we met the minister today, he told us that they would issue a show-cause notice to the Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation today under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,’ he said.

‘The notice would demand a reply from the company as to why the construction work should not be suspended due to non-compliance with conditions of the clearances given. The firm will have 15 days to reply before action is taken by the ministry,’ Agarwal added.

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