The Madhya Pradesh government has said the filling of the Omkareshwar dam poses no threat to human life even as the Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission (MPHRC) directed the government to ensure the safety of the protesters.

The government’s statement comes in the wake of the ongoing jal satyagraha protest of the project affected people of the Omkareshwar dam in the East Nimaar region (Khandwa district), where oustees have been standing in the rising dam water for the last seven days.

Friday was the seventh day of the protest and 51 oustees continued to stand neck-deep in the dam water. On Friday morning, when the constantly rising water rose above the oustees’ necks, supporters of the Narmada Bachao Andolan sat on a dharna outside the Khandwa collector’s residence, following which the water was reduced by some inches.

Simultaneously, on a petition by Narmada Bachao Andolan, the MPHRC, considering the gravity of the situation, passed an interim order directing the State government to reduce the water level and ensure the safety of the oustees.

Oustees, as part of the jal satyagraha, have been protesting the government’s decision to raise the dam’s water level from 189 to 193 metres and have resolved to ‘drown but not move’ without receiving relief and land-based rehabilitation.

However, the government has said filling of the dam “will put no threat to human lives.”

The 520 MW Omkareshwar project is one of the several big dams on the Narmada river, built by the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation (NHDC), a joint venture between the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd. and the government of Madhya Pradesh.

“The filling is being done gradually keeping in view the safety and security of human lives on top priority. The related district administrations have been put on alert with a contingency plan to extend help in emergency situations,” said Vice Chairman of the Narmada Valley Development Authority and Principal Secretary of the Narmada Valley Development Department, Rajneesh Vaish.

“There are 6,290 Project Affected Familes (PAFs) under the Omkareshwar Project (OSP). They have been provided compensation of Rs. 8,668.68 lakhs for their immovable properties. In addition, an amount of Rs. 2,019.36 lakhs have been disbursed to OSP PAFs as a Special Rehabilitation Grant, besides Rs. 3,116.17 lakhss as rehabilitation and transportation grant,” said Mr. Vaish.

46 rehabilitation sites had been developed with all basic amenities to resettle displaced families, including a residential plot measuring 90ft by 60ft to each PAF free of cost, he said.

PAFs who opted not to take the plot had been provided Rs. 20,000 in lieu, he added.

Earlier this month, the Grievance Redressal Authority, constituted for the affected families of the Omkareshwar dam project, had directed the NHDC and the State government to compensate the oustees with ‘land for land’ after examining the applications and the Supreme Court order of May 11, 2011.