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August 20, 2001
1722 IST

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Sardar Sarovar dam: Children to request
President to visit Narmada valley

Basharat Peer in New Delhi

Ever since the Supreme Court closed its doors on the Narmada Bachao Andolan by handing down a judgment favouring construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in the Narmada valley, the NBA has pinned its hopes on President K R Narayanan.

This monsoon, at least 5000 families, 11 schools and the entire tribal belt in the valley are in danger of being submerged without any provision for rehabilitation due to the verdict raising the height of the dam from 85 to 93 metres, a NBA spokesman said.

Seventy children from the Jeevan Shala chain of schools established by the NBA, who have been touring the country, are going to meet the President on Tuesday evening and request him to visit the Narmada valley to have a first hand view of the situation there.

The children would be accompanied by their teachers and some NBA activists.

The NBA wants the President to use the special powers conferred on him by the Constitution of India under its 5th Schedule to get the project reviewed.

"Schools are in danger of being submerged if heavy rains hit the Narmada valley this time around. Hence, they are going to request the President to use his special powers to save their schools and lives," Joe Athialy of NBA told rediff.com.

The children have been on a Jeevan Yatra (journey for survival), flagged off by octogenarian social activist Sadhana Amte from village Kasaravad, on the banks of river Narmada, touring various parts of the country, meeting children their age and telling them about the situation in the Narmada valley.

"Thirty-two thousand persons are in danger of being submerged. The government does not have the land to rehabilitate them," Athialy asserts.

"Out of over 44,000 families to be affected by the reservoir, less than 20 per cent have been relocated in the last 20 years. Many of those rehabilitated were given land that is either uncultivable, lesser in size than their original holding or non-agricultural land," Athialy added.

Though the President's office has not expressed its willingness to grant the children an appointment, the NBA is optimistic.

"From his actions and speeches, we believe that the President is sensitive towards issues dear to the people. We hope that he would spare some time for the children and consider their request," a NBA spokesman said.

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