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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 June, 2004, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Indian dam town defies deadline
Locals in Narmada valley
Opponents say the project's human cost is too high
Over 20,000 people in India's Madhya Pradesh state are defying a deadline to leave their homes - which will soon be submerged by water from a river dam.

The Indira Sagar dam is one of 29 being built on the Narmada river.

The town of Harsud, 235km from state capital Bhopal, faces being submerged when monsoons raise the water level.

The controversial Narmada project includes 3,000 dams across three states. Critics say the human costs outweigh the proposed benefits.


The BBC's Mahesh Pandey in Bhopal says the majority of an estimated 30,000 residents are refusing to move from Harsud and its neighbouring villages ahead of the government's Wednesday deadline.

They say they will lose their livelihoods and are unhappy with a new township built for them at Chanera, some 17km (10 miles) away.

Only 1,450 of Harsud's 6,100 families have so far moved, state water resources minister Anoop Mishra told the Associated Press news agency.

The rest were refusing to leave, he said.

One resident told AP: "I went to the new town, but there is no water, electricity, roads or health care facilities. How can I live there?"

Others, like local shopkeeper Anand Maheshwari, had more sentimental reasons not to go.

"My house is 100 years old. How can I leave it? I will wait until the backwaters enter my house. Then, I will decide," he said.

On Tuesday, the state's High Court ordered locals to abide by the deadline and dismissed a petition seeking to stall final work on the dam.

State and federal police have marched through Harsud to underline the authorities' resolve to evacuate the town.

Long row

Controversy has surrounded the Narmada project since its inception more than 10 years ago.

The government say the dams will bring drinking water to 40 million people, generate electricity and irrigate land.

But environmentalists and activists accuse the government of seizing land by force without any compensation.

Protesters fought to have the height of the dams lowered to reduce the number of people facing displacement because of flooding.

For four years, the project stalled as environmentalists and villagers took their case to the courts.

Work resumed in 2000 after India's Supreme Court said it was satisfied with the government's plans to relocate those displaced.

The project's 3,000 dams of varying sizes are in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

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