Legal Correspondent

Have concern for oustees, Madhya Pradesh told

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Madhya Pradesh government and the Narmada Hydro Electric Corporation (NHEC) to maintain water level in the Omkareshwar dam at 189 metres to prevent submergence of villages.

A Bench consisting of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran passed the order while disposing of their appeals challenging an interim order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court that the level be maintained at 189 metres.

The Bench told senior counsel Ravi Shankar Prasad and Additional Solicitor-General Amarendra Saran, appearing for the government: “You say you had spent Rs.2,500 crore for this project. You should have a little more concern for the oustees. Since there are lingering doubts on completion of relief and rehabilitation measures, you must provide them some relief. It is a human problem.”

“They want relief”

When counsel said relief and rehabilitation had been completed and that no oustee had come to the court, the Bench said: “You have been saying this for several years but still there is complaint. They [oustees] are not bothered about maintaining the water level at 189 or 190 metres, they want relief.”

When counsel said it would be impossible to maintain the level at 189 metres as there would be fluctuations between 189 and 190 metres, the Bench said “minor fluctuations could be there.”

Counsel for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) Sanjay Parikh said that as on August 30 the level was 189 metres and it should be maintained at this level. He disputed the contention that relief and rehabilitation had been completed.

On August 25, the apex court stayed the August 17 High Court order directing the Government and the NHEC to reduce the level to 189 metres.

The Supreme Court accepted the contention that if the level was reduced by one metre to 189 metres, water release would submerge many villages.

The High Court had passed its order on an application by the NBA complaining that 25 villages would be submerged at the 190-metre level.

Multipurpose project

The Omkareshwar multipurpose project comprises a dam on the Narmada, a powerhouse with an installed capacity of 520 MW on the right bank and a canal system for irrigating 1.47 lakh hectares. The dam, located just below the Indira Sagar dam, has been completed up to the crest and 23 radial gates on the spillway have been erected.