Court says ‘no’ to increase in water level

Staff Correspondent

‘Rehabilitation and Resettlement of the oustees of Omkareshwar dam remains to be completed’

High Court seeks report within 15 days

NBA had filed the Public Interest Litigation

BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh High Court has refused to give permission to increase the water level in the Omkareshwar dam above the current level of 189 meters while recording its finding that the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) of the oustees of the dam still remains to be completed.

The High Court passed the order last Friday after hearing the State Government, Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation Ltd. (NHDC), Narmada Bachao Andolan and examining the Report submitted by the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) for two days on June 18 and 19.

The High Court has directed the GRA to submit a report within the next 15 days, giving details of the number of oustees and their adult sons, who have received compensation in lieu of land and also those who have not received compensation on this count. The Court has asked the State Government to consider expanding the GRA, so that the complaints of the oustees about the denial of their R&R entitlements could be heard and redressed expeditiously. The High Court has even permitted the oustees to present their case through authorized representatives in front of the GRA. The next hearing in the case would be on July 14.

The Omkareshwar Project is being constructed on Narmada in Khandwa district. According to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) statement, about 10, 000 families from 30 villages of Khandwa and Dewas districts are being affected by this dam. In March 2007, NBA had filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the High Court at Jabalpur.

In its final order of February 21 this year, the High Court had directed that all land-holders, encroachers and their adult sons be allotted agricultural land. The High Court had also directed that even the land-owners who had been given compensation in lieu of land by the Government could return their compensation and claim land. The High Court had directed that the oustees should file their grievances with regard to denial of R&R entitlements with the GRA by March 31 and the GRA should redress all these grievances and file a report in the High Court on June 17.

The High Court had also stated that any further permission to raise the water level of the Omakreshwar dam was to be given only after the completion of R&R. The State Government and the NHDC challenged the order in Supreme Court. After hearing the matter, the Supreme Court had ordered that the High Court would take a decision after taking into consideration the actual status on the R&R front. The Supreme Court had, however, modified the earlier order of the High Court and excluded the claims of those oustees who had already taken compensation for land at the time of raising the water level. Their rights would be decided by the Supreme Court at the time of the final hearing.

The GRA report submitted to the High Court admitted that 3800 claims had been received asking for allotment of agricultural land, and 2800 complaints had been received about denial of other R&R entitlements.

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