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Thousands wade in for India anti-dam protest

Villagers demand compensation they say was promised

Thousands wade in for India anti-dam protest

Villagers stage a river protest against a proposed rise in water levels at the Indira Sagar Dam reporter, Bhopal

September 3, 2013

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Thousands of people in Madhya Pradesh are standing in waist-high water in an indefinite river protest against government moves to raise water levels at a nearby dam.

Villagers living close to the Indira Sagar Dam say raising the water level above 260 meters would submerge their homes and crops.

The police have arrested and released over 1,000 protesters since the protest began three days ago in an effort to disperse the crowds but more people have joined the protests.

The protest is also being staged simultaneously in Dewas, Harda and Khandwa districts.

Narmada Bachao Andolan, a social forum spearheading the protest, has been fighting for the rights of the villagers and people already displaced following the construction of the Indira Sagar Dam and other dams across the Narmada river.

NBA activist Alok Agrawal said the protest also aims to demand the state government implement a rehabilitation policy it promised to the people who were displaced.

He said the government promised two hectares of land and INR 250,000 (US$3,700) to each displaced landless family to help them re-build their lives.

The dam has displaced some 50,000 families living in 255 villages, according to Agrawal.

“Despite an elaborate rehabilitation policy, not a single farmer has got land, and farmers were brutally evicted with a pittance by way of compensation” Agrawal told on Tuesday.

“Thousands of lives will be ruined if water levels are raised further,” said Laxminarayan Meena, a resident of Khandwa district.

Ramvilas Rathore, whose land was completely submerged because of the dam, said his family has "no other means of survival unless the government compensates us with land and money. If not we have decided to die in the water,” he said.

The minister of state for the Narmada Valley Development Authority, Kanhaiyalal Agrawal said the government has an adequate compensation fund and will disperse it by Sept 9.

A similar protest in September last year by people displaced by the Omkareshwar dam in the same state succeeded after the government decided to grant compensation and not to raise water levels.

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