Feb 11 Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), has alleged that seismic activity could be a major reason why the Narmada water got polluted and undrinkable. A statement signed by several senior NBA activists, including Medha Patkar, Kailash Awasya , Mukesh Bhagoriya, Kamla Yadav, Rahul Yadav, Suresh Patidar, Jagdish Patel and Devram Kanera, has asked the Madhya Pradesh government to pressure the Gujarat government to make public all the data on seismic activity along the dam and its impact.
Text of the statement:
While Narmada Jayanti will be celebrated by thousands of people in the valley on February 12, the mother river itself is facing an unprecedented danger. An alarm regarding this has been raised by none other than the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). The whole issue started when lakhs of fishes were found dead on the banks of the canals of the Sardar Sarovar project.
These fishes had died, according to initial news reports, due to some chemicals coming out of the power turbine of the Sardar Sarovar dam. Later on, there was suspicion, which was partly proved, that some chemicals were used to capture crocodiles and remove them, so that a sea plane could become a tourist attraction in one of the dykes of the Sardar Sarovar dam, through which the reservoir water flows into the canals.
It is now known that 15 crocodiles were removed from that the dyke No 4, and put into the reservoir waters. There are around 500 crocodiles in the dykes situated next to the dam.
On finding that the taste and odour of the water had changed, and doubts began being expressed about its potability, GPCB officials accepted that something was wrong and started investigation. The Gujarat government, meanwhile, announced that it is stopping water supply to 138 villages which were using canal waters from Sardar Sarovar for drinking purposes. This was done for the safety of life, which was allegedly in danger.
But everyone knows that the canal waters do not flow to 138 villages alone; they are used for potable purposes in Vadodara, Gandhinagar and Ahmadabad cities as well.
It is a matter of investigation whether there was a toxic gas coming out of the bottom of the Sardar Sarovar dam, where some seismic activity appears to be going on. GPCB says, it does not have necessary manpower and expertise to ascertain the cause, hence it has taken help of organisations like Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), which can take samples to test.
GPCB has also involved the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) as well as the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) in its investigation. It has asked the Madhya Pradesh government to take samples from Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dam reservoirs as well.
As for the seismological issue, it has been discussed for years in the meetings of the environmental sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA). In every meeting it was reported that a number of studies are yet to take place, and the assignments are entrusted to some organisation or the other, which would have the necessary expertise.
It’s no more a hidden fact that the ground of the Narmada lineament is full of seismic risk and seismic activity, and there are a number of fault zones around the dam site of the Sardar Sarovar. When Kutch earthquake occurred in 2001, apprehensions were expressed about possible outcome in case the epicentre was the Sardar Sarovar dam.
None other than late Mukul Sinha, courageous scientist lawyer, drafted a petition through his organisation Janhit Manch, which was not heard by the Gujarat High Court. There has been a lot of pressure from the Gujarat government not to do scientific in-depth investigation of the issue.
It is known that the seismic activity along the dam has increased, and a number of recordings have been made even at the seismographic stations in near Shahada, Maharashtra, for many years. The activity beyond three Richter scale is considered alarming and it should have been taken cognizance of.
However, the reality is that, seismographic stations in Madhya Pradesh in the Narmada valley in Badhwani and Dhar districts are almost non-functional. Data from these stations is not available in Madhya Pradesh, nor is it being monitored by the state government.
Meanwhile, all the data was transferred through an electronic device to Gandhinagar straightaway after the Modi government came to power. GPCB has now asked this data to be monitored and assessed, without which there can be no concrete evidence about the seismic activity and its impact, including the quality of water.
It is said that dissolved oxygen in the water is reduced from 4 to 5 milligram per litre to 1-2 milligram per litre, and that is the reason why pollution due to the saturation of sulphides has taken place. This has made Narmada water no more potable, i.e. drinkable.
If this is the situation in the Gujarat part of the Sardar Sarovar dam’s reservoir, from where the canal water flows and kills fishes, what about the water being used for drinking and other purposes by lakhs of people in the Narmada valley in the Madhya Pradesh region?
- The Madhya Pradesh government should take cognizance beyond political lines and carry out investigation, even as compel Gujarat to come clean about seismic activity and made public seismographic data of Madhya Pradesh that has been gathered in Gandhinagar over the last many years.
- The people of Narmada valley will be celebrating Narmada Jayanti on February 12 because the river is their life and livelihood. As their right to right to life and livelihood is at stake, they the right to know what is the reason behind the polluted Narmada waters.