Days ahead of the inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, a group of activists and labourers today protested in the national capital alleging that 40,000 affected families are yet to rehabilitated. Members of NGOs like the Medha Patkar-led National Alliance of People's movements (NAPM), All India Union of Forest Working People, Khudai Khidmatgar, and other support groups, along with several workers, mostly women, demonstrated in front of the Shram Shakti Bhawan, which houses the Ministry of Water Resources. "We have prepared a memorandum addressed to the Union Water Minister Nitin Gadkari and our colleagues have gone to his office to submit it," a NAPM member said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to inaugurate the newly-constructed gates of ambitious Narmada Dam on September 17 on his birthday. The new gates raise the height of the dam to 138.68 metres. The Narmada Control Authority in June granted permission to the state government to close the gates, which will raise water level in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir, after being convinced that rehabilitation of the people displaced due to the project was complete. "We right to you (Gadkari) with deepest concern an appeal to your conscience to save the life and livelihood of lakhs of people in the Narmada Valley.
We strongly condemn the unprecedented closure of the Sardar Sarovar Dam gates while there are more than 40,000 families yet to be rehabilitated," says the memorandum. "Even with closure of dam gates, without the construction of Narmada canals, water cannot reach to the intended beneficiaries for irrigation and drinking purposes," it claims. The protesters held placards and shouted slogans, demanding rehabilitation for the affected families. Veteran CPI(M) leader and former MP, Hannan Mollah, also joined the protest and expressed his concern about the inundation that will follow the closure of the dam gates. "People who are affected by the project must be rehabilitated properly," he said. Assembly elections are due in Gujarat by year-end. Ahead of Modi's visit, the state will organise Narmada Mahotsav Yatra from September 6 to September 15. "The Narmada Mahotsav can only be celebrated by the people of the Narmada Valley when dam gates are are set open, allowing the water level to recede till the rehabilitation of the 40,000 families is done," the memorandum says.
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