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Sardar Sarovar gets green light

India’s Supreme Court, in an interim ruling, has given the green light for completion of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river. The Supreme Court permitted the Gujurat government to increase the height of the dam from its current level of 80.3m to the design height of 85m.

Permission was given by a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice A S Anand, after hearing a writ petition from dam opponents Narmada Bachao Andolan, who opposed raising the dam. The Bench also asked for formation of a three-member committee, headed by Justice PD Desai, to examine whether the people displaced by the dam had been rehabilitated in accordance with the 1979 order of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. The other two members of the Desai committee are to be appointed by the state government in consultation with Justice Desai.

Work had been started at the dam, and a ceremony held with the state governor in attendance, but work has been halted for over three years while the NBA petition was outstanding. NBA’s Medha Pratkar said that raising the dam by a further 5m will submerge 58 villages in Maharashatra and Gujurat states, and at a press conference following the order she reiterated that 2000 families will be displaced by the project.

General contractor for the Sardar Sarovar project is Jai Prakash Industries of India, while Sumitomo of Japan is providing the electromechanical equipment.