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Soz suspends raising of height of Sardar Sarovar dam
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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April 15, 2006 15:04 IST

Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz has suspended the raising of the Sardar Sarovar dam height with immediate effect. The decision was taken in his capacity as chairman of the review committee of the Narmada Control Authority.

The minister that there was no resolution after three hours of deliberation between him, the chief ministers of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and Environment and Forests Minister A Raja with three votes each in favour and against the resolution moved by the government.

Therefore, Soz will now present the minutes of the meeting to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] who will take the final decision.

"Since there was a tie, I as the chairman, have taken a decision not to raise the height of the dam. If Gujarat government goes ahead, it would not be a legal action," he said.

Soz made it clear that when the Supreme Court gave its verdict on March 15, 2005, it had specifically said that the oustees must be rehabilitated before any area under the Sardar Sarovar dam gets submerged. "We found that the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan had not been able to give proper rehabilitation," he said.

The court, he said, had also directed that a free house or a plot would be provided to the oustees who own 25 percent of agricultural land at the place of the living and the oustees must be told 18 weeks in advance for moving out of the area.

When asked how can he refer the matter to prime minister when there was a tie, Soz said that 'I am supposed to inform my prime minister of any development'.

Soz was speaking to the media after a meeting with the chief ministers. The meeting was called after Medha Patkar and nine others belonging to the Narmada Bachao Andolan have been on an indefinite hunger strike since March 29.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi [Images] has, however, accused the Union government of buckling under Patkar's pressure and has warned any consequences of this decision shall be borne by the Centre.

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