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Gujarat MPs warn Centre against lowering height of Sasar Sarovar dam

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 14 (UNI) Just a day ahead of the Narmada Review Committee meeting, a delegation of Gujarat MPs -- nine from the BJP and one from the Congress -- today met Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz to convey to him that the people of Gujarat would not allow any lowering of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam despite the ongoing agitation by anti-dam activists.

''The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) had decided to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 121 meter as per the Supreme Court order of October 18, 2000. The five crore people of the state will go to extreme steps if the proposed height is lowered,'' said former Union Minister and BJP Lok Sabha member Haren Pathak after an hour-long meeting with Prof. Soz.

The delegation submitted a memorandum to the minister, demanding a direction to the NCA not to stop the construction work, take up the rehabilitation programme expeditiously and ''not to surrender to the whims of a handful of people who are opposing the dam.'' In the face of the ongoing agitation launched by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar, the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, had decided to review the height of the Narmada dam.

The CCPA had discussed the finding of the Group of Ministers (GoM), comprising Mr Soz, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Meira Kumar and Minister of State in the PMO, Mr Prithviraj Chauhan, who visted the site to oversee the rehabilitation measures.

Accusing Ms Patkar of deliberately raising the issue of rehabilitation to impede the ongoing construction of the project, Mr Pathak, who led the 10-member delegation, said the dam was linked to welfare of the people in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Asserting that the entire political parties of Gujarat were agitated over the issue of the likely review of the dam at ''the instance of some individuals'', he said the Central government should not encourage them against the larger interests of the people of the state.

Prof Soz assured that he would convey the feelings of the delegation members to the Prime Minister, Mr Pathak said.

Prof Praveen Rashtrapal (Rajya Sabha), the sole Congress member of the delegation, said any attempt to impede the ongoing cnstruction work at the dam site would escalate the project cost as it had already gone up from Rs 6000 crore in 1961 to Rs 25,000 crore now.

Justifying the raising of the dam height, he said such a measure was necessary for providing water for drinking and irrigation purposes to the drought-prone areas of the Saurashtra region.

The nine BJP MPs of the delegation were: Harin Mr, Ratilal Verma, Ms Jayaben Thakkar, Haribhai Patel, Mansukhbhia Vasava (all Lok Sabha), Jayantilal Barot, Vijayabhai R. Rupani, Suryakant Acharya and Kanjibhai Patel (all Rajya Sabha).

Reacting to Bollywood hero Aamir Khan's lending support to the Narmada agitation, Mr Pathak said, ''It is not the question of Aamir Khan. The issue is with political parties, and if anyone tries to create problems in the construction of the dam, it would be stoutly resisted.''


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