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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"Clearly not the end of the controversy"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 18 October, 2000, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Go-ahead for India dam project

India's Supreme Court has given approval for work to continue on a highly controversial dam project in the western state of Gujarat.

The court decided by a majority of 2-1 that the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river could be built to a height of 90m - it is currently 88m high.

Arundhati Roy
Arundhati Roy: High-profile campaign against dam
The dam has been at the centre of a heated debate for years involving, among others, the prize-winning author Arundhati Roy.

The government says the dam will boost development across a large part of western and central India.

Protesters argue that the supposed benefits do not justify the displacement of thousands of families in the area.

Divided

One Supreme Court judge wanted all construction activities at the dam site to stop so that a detailed environmental survey could be carried out.


It is an unfortunate judgement and it will have serious repercussions in the Narmada Valley.

Save the Narmada Movement lawyer Prashant Bushan
However, his two colleagues said work to raise the dam by a further two metres could start immediately as they were satisfied by the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the state authorities.

However, they said that raising the dam beyond 90m to its envisaged maximum height of 130m would require clearance from an environmental authority appointed to undertake the task.

A lawyer for the Save the Narmada Movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan), Prashant Bhushan, said he was "amazed" by the judgement.

The Sardar Sarovar dam is one of a whole series planned for the Narmada River, which have become the focus in recent of many of the concerns about big dam proejcts.

Dam project

Apart from the Sardar Sarovar project on the eastern edge of Gujarat, another huge dam called the Narmada Sagar is to be built in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

At least 30 large dams, 135 medium ones and nearly 3,000 small dams, used to channel water into thousands of miles of irrigation canals, are to be built.

Protesters have been demanding that the authorities stop further construction work at the dams because of what they say is the failure to address the rehabilitation needs of local people, whose villages will be flooded.

However, those who support the dam system say that it will provide large amounts of water and electricity that are needed for development and that it would particularly benefit drought-prone areas of Gujurat state.

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See also:

12 Jan 00 | South Asia
Author released after dam protest
01 Aug 99 | South Asia
'Rally for the Valley'
29 Jul 99 | South Asia
Narmada: A history of controversy
29 Jul 99 | South Asia
Narmada: The threat to local villages
26 Jun 99 | South Asia
Top novelist funds anti-dam campaign
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