Dhar (MP): As the water level in the submergence area of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada rose across Barwani and Dhar districts of Madhya Pradesh on Friday, activists claimed that many people are still staying put in submerged areas.
The level of water is steadily rising since the closure of the gates of the dam, located in neighbouring Gujarat, began in July with activists alleging that affected families have not been fully rehabilitated or paid compensation.
People affected by the project led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Friday staged a 'Jal Satyagaraha' at Chota Barda village here.
Several villages, including low-level areas in Nisarpur town, were submerged on Friday as the water level rose to 128.3 meters.
However, Indore Divisional Commissioner Sanjay Dubey said people were leaving their houses voluntarily, and over 300 were taken to safer places today.
The water level is rising gradually, but there was no sudden flooding, he said.
"People are willingly vacating their houses. We have pressed the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in to service to help them and to monitor the situation," Sub Divisional Magistrate of Kukshi, Rishabh Gupta, said.
"The water level was recorded at 128 meters this morning and it has risen to 128.3 meters now," he said.
The NBA along with some other organisations took out a protest march from Anjad to Chhota Barda. CPM leader Subhashini Ali and convener of the National Alliance of People's Movement Arundhati Dhuru took part in it.
"The prime minister is scheduled to inaugurate the (completed) Sardar Sarovar Project on his birthday on
September 17, so the gates were closed to ensure that he sees the reservoir filled with water," Dhuru said.
There has been no proper rehabilitation and most people are staying put even when water has entered their houses, she alleged.
Himshi Singh, an activist, claimed that the water is flowing 5 feet above a bridge at Rajghat on the banks of Narmada and another bridge on Baghni river in Nisarpur.
The Narmada's water have submerged standing crops in Rajghat, she alleged.
"Initially authorities said Rs 5.8 lakh would be paid to every ousted person for construction of a house. Now they have added a rider, saying this would be only for the beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana," she said.
Chikhalda, Dharamray and Kakrana villages are also partially submerged, besides parts of Nisarpur town.
Mohan Prajapat, a resident of Nisarpur, refused to leave this morning even as water entered his house.
Sitting on a half-submerged cot, he told reporters, "I haven't got the compensation yet. I will leave only when compensation is paid."
SDM Gupta, however, said Rs 3 lakh had already been transferred to his account. "The remaining Rs 2.80 lakh would be paid after the demolition of his existing house. He agreed to shift. The NDRF team has shifted him," Gupta said. "We have increased surveillance (to look for stranded people) as the water level is rising. We have deployed 12 boats at Dharamray, Nisarpur, Chikhalda, Karodiya, Koteshwar and other places," NDRF team leader Buddharam Dewasi said.
The Sardar Sarovar Project, launched in 1961, got delayed due to several reasons. The construction was suspended in 1996 after NBA activists obtained a stay from the Supreme Court over environmental and rehabilitation issues.
The apex court allowed resumption of work in October 2000, while imposing conditions regarding rehabilitation. The closing of gates which began in phases in July, the height of one of the biggest water reservoirs in the country will be 138 meters with a storage capacity of 4.75 million cubic meters.
The NBA claimed that 40,000 families in 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh would be displaced when the reservoir is filled to its optimum capacity. However, the government has said that 18,386 families in 141 villages would be affected.