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A Central fact finding committee has warned against increasing the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in Gujarat, saying that it could lead to a calamity bigger than the earthquake in Nepal. In consultation with Delhi Solidarity Group, the six- member Central fact finding committee, including two members each from CPI and Congress and as many independent experts, on May 9 and 10 visited several villages in the Narmada Valley which are affected by the Sardar Sarovar project to find the current and actual ground situation of the project, affected families, and extent of resettlement and rehabilitation. The committee today released its report "Drowning a valley: Destroying a civilization" from Sardar Sarovar project submergence areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. "Even with the present height of about 122 meters, the team found that many families have not been recognized as submergence zone families. "With the raising of the height of the dam structure by 17 meters to nearly 139 Meters, thousands more will be severely affected and submerged," said environmentalist and energy expert Soumya Dutta, one of the six committee members. Dutta also warned that it will lead to a calamity bigger than Nepal earthquake. "This would be a massive disaster and government should conduct a scientific study to calculate back water," he said. The committee said that Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Union governments have claimed in the Supreme Court that the rehabilitation of all affected families is now complete following which clearance to raise the height of the dam by 17 metres was given. "Government lied before the court as thousands of families are still living in the villages in the submergence zone, that they have not been given land based compensation as per Supreme Court order and tribunal awards," Dutta said. The report said that thousands of affected families are still awaiting their due compensation and rehabilitation. Another member of the committee, Annie Raja, who is also the general secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, accused the state and Union governments of violating orders of the Supreme Court and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal. "The physical condition of the rehabilitation sites is pathetic, with wild growth on them... no roads, no water supply or electricity.
Along with the lack of schools, health centres etc, affected families are refusing to settle in rehabilitation sites," Raja said. The report also highlighted that affected families have complained of large scale corruption in land allotment. "Many land allotments were done illegally to people who are not really project affected. Some of the land allotted to affected people was already allotted on the name of someone else," Raja said. The committee's report will be sent to the Central government, relevant state governments and other commissions to highlight the plight of project-affected people.