The Supreme Court has declined vacating a Madhya Pradesh High Court stay order on Indira Sagar and Omakreshwar canals, and directed the state government to file a detailed rejoinder to the Narmada Bachao Andolan's (NBA) counter-affidavit by February 3.

A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice J.M. Panchal and Justice B.S. Chouhan heard on Tuesday the Special Leave Petition (Appeal) filed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh, against the M.P. High Court stay on the land acquisition and canal excavation for the India Sagar and Omkareshwar Canals.

The High Court had stayed the work on canals through its judgement dated 11-11-2009 on the grounds of serious non-compliance of environmental and rehabilitation measures since the last 15-20 years. The Court has also taken cognizance of the severe impacts of massive canal network, and had ordered the stay till the Experts Committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests approves the command area development (CAD) plan and permits work on canals.

The state government, however, had contended before the apex court that the impacts of canals were too small and narrow and affected only a 'small number of families' who would also benefit from better irrigation facilities, and hence the canal-affected could not be treated at par with the submergence affected.

Counsel for the NBA argued that the maps elaborating canal and command area submitted by the state government were faulty, and submitted to the court the official maps as well as photographs showing the irrigated agricultural land destroyed by the canals.

Various documents from the MoEF, the Planning Commission and the Central Water Commission, as well as those from Narmada Control Authority and the Narmada Valley Development Authority (M.P.) were also submitted before the court.

During the proceedings, the Chief Justice and Justice Chauhan questioned the counsel for state government on the exact number of canal-affected families (CAFs) and asked whether they have a plan for rehabilitation.