The Environment Ministry has issued a show cause notice to the company building the Maheshwar Dam in the Narmada Valley after hundreds of affected people marched to the Ministry demanding rehabilitation.

According to the notice, if the company cannot explain why 80 per cent of construction is over even while rehabilitation efforts lag behind, the project could be closed.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which coordinated the two-day protest, said a thousand villagers arrived in Delhi on Tuesday, with about half that number taking part in the action at the Ministry headquarters.

After a delegation met Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, he issued the show cause notice asking the Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation why construction work should not be stopped due to non-compliance with the conditions of environmental clearance given. The clearance required affected families to be given two hectares of agricultural land, resettlement sites and other benefits, with resettlement and rehabilitation measures to proceed at the same pace as construction work.

Instead, “the construction is 80 per cent complete, but only three per cent of the rehabilitation has been done till date. Not a single family has been allotted agricultural land yet,” NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit said. While the Ministry wrote to the Madhya Pradesh government last October, it has still not taken any action against the company to stop construction, Ms. Palit said. The project was privatised in 1992 and handed over to the S. Kumars group.

The Ministry’s show cause was issued under Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and gives the company a fortnight to respond before action is taken.

“You are hereby requested to show cause within 15 days of receipt of this notice as to why the environmental clearance granted to the unit should not be revoked and a direction for closure of the aforesaid project may not be issued,” the notice said.

According to the NBA, the Maheshwar Dam will submerge the lands and homes of 50,000 to 70,000 peasants, fishermen and landless workers in 61 villages.

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