Terming the Ministry of Environment and Forest's decision to allow filling up the Maheshwar dam upto a level of 154 metres as “illegal and illegitimate”, the Narmada Bachao Andolan has demanded a withdrawal of the decision.

The NBA has given a call for a massive rally, comprising thousands of project affected people, on Sunday and has reiterated its warning of a jal satyagraha if the MoEF failed to withdraw its decision.

The controversial Maheshwar dam project, India's first privately-financed hydro-electric project, is one of the 29 big dams planned across the river Narmada. It is being promoted by Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd. (SMHPCL), a subsidiary of MW corp., which is the restructured avatar of the S.Kumar's group.

“The MoEF order is based on false information given by the district collector, Khargone, and the State government that no lands and houses would be submerged if the reservoir is filled up to 154 meters,” NBA leader Alok Agrawal told The Hindu.

“The order states that the closure of the gates and the impoundment will be supervised by a team comprising members of the State and Central governments, and that the impoundment will be stopped if any submergence of lands and houses takes place. It is thus clear that the MoEF is itself aware that there will be submergence of houses and lands at 154 metres,” he said.

“Further, the order has ignored the glaring fact that 85% of the 10,000 affected families of the 61 affected villages remain to be resettled and that no single land-holder has been allotted land and rehabilitated till date,” said Mr. Agrawal.

A massive rally will be taken out in Mandleshwar by the affected people on Sunday, May 13th to demand the withdrawal of “this irrational decision”, the NBA said in a statement.

The rally is expected to be attended by NBA supporters from all over the country including well-known Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey, and representatives of other organisations and dams in the Narmada valley.

The SMHPCL welcomed the MoEF decision in a statement. “We welcome the MoEF decision for filling the Maheshwar dam up to a level of 154 metres. The decision was long overdue and it has been granted by the Union government on the basis of factual reports of competent government agencies, which have categorically stated that there would be no submergence of any village if the dam is filled up to 154 metres,” Alok Sinha, director SMHPCL said in a statement.