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Narmada finale as hearing begins

The final hearing by India’s Supreme Court on the controversial Narmada project began in New Delhi, India, on 3 February 1999.

The hearing has brought the confrontation between anti-dam environmental groups and the government over the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river to a finale. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a group representing the people displaced by the reservoir, was the first petitioner to be heard at the hearing; the central government and the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan will also be heard in the coming days. As the hearing began, the Senior Counsel representing the Gujarat state government resigned, citing differences with the state government.

The State of Gujarat, in its filing with the Supreme Court, is arguing that it should be granted permission to raise the dam from its current height of 81.5m up to 110m, because it has made enough progress on resettlement and rehabilitation of people affected by the dam at the current height.

The NBA has argued that the resettlement work up to 81.5m is inadequate and unsatisfac-tory. It also says that another 8000 families living in the area, who would be affected by raising the dam to 110m, need to be resettled before any construction is started.