Answers to some very commonly and frequently asked questions related to the Sardar Sarovar Project are briefly presented here.   

Q. When environmental consequences of the Sardar Sarovar Project are not known why it is being persued ?

The Sardar Sarovar Project is a most thoroughly studied project and studies have been carried out to assess the impacts and suggest the environmental safeguard measures.

India is a country having lots of diversity  with a number of National Parks / Sanctuaries / biospheres reserves. Sardar Sarovar Project is outside such identified zones  known to contain species of diversity having significant concern. The history of the assessment of  environmental impacts of SSP dates back to 198. That was the time when the project was conceived and was viewed in accordance with the relevant guidelines in force at that time.

Immediately after the announcement of the Tribunal award, the Indian Forest Conservation Act, 1980 restricting the use of forestland for non-forest purpose was enacted. Simultaneously, the Department of Environment was set up which became, in the year 1985, a part of the Ministry of Environment & Forests. The MOEF was thus entrusted with the scrutiny of  development projects from  environmental angle and issuance of  necessary clearance selected development projects on the basis of the detailed information to be provided by the project authorities in accordance with the prescribed procedures. Impact Assessment Division of the Ministry of Environment & Forests has an advisory committee of the experts drawn from across the country to suggest it on acceptance/rejection/modification of the proposal brought before it.

For the SSP, preliminary studies and surveys suggested that there was no endemic, rare, endangered or threatened species of plants or animal  in the submergence areas and as such there was no likely hood of a loss of any gene pool. It was observed that no environmental issue is significant enough to threaten the viability of the project and that what remained to be done was collection of the data for preparation of the mitigation plan for identified parameters.
During January, 1987 Ministry of Environment & Forests had recommended clearance to the Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar Project from environmental angle with certain riders and finally the Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar Projects were approved by the Govt. of India during April, 1987

In compliance of the suggested riders on 3rd June, 1987, the NCA was reconstituted with amplification of its scope and acceptance of responsibility for planning implementation and monitoring of Environmental Safeguards. Upon reconstitution of the Authority, the projects (NSP & SSP) were accorded environmental clearance. This clearance was subject to four conditions which were to be complied with by the project authorities.
It is fact that about 13386 ha of the forest land will be submerged under Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, but to compensate that, an area of about 42000 ha has been brought under plantation at the cost of the project. By this time almost the entire area has been covered. In addition to these, massive plantations have been carried out within the degraded catchment of the Narmada under  programmes of  the catchment area treatment.

There is a substantial progress on all the suggested parameters and the progress is subjected to periodic review by experts at  various levels. As of now, the environment mitigation works are progressing satisfactorily.

Q. Why the tribals are being forced to abandon their places and migrate uncertain future when the are comfortably living in pristine forest area and cultivating fertile land ?

This is myth easily believed by people who are not aware of the ground realities. A widespread myth is that the tribal people to be resettled from the submergence area are living in pristine forests in a traditional manner as hunter gathers in harmony with the environment. Many of them welcome the opportunity to improve their lot in the more fertile and more sustainable command area.

The symbiotic relation between tribals and forests was lost long back. At present they are cultivating barren, less-productive, steep hills, depending completely on rain fed agriculture for their own sustainence and are troubled by the uncertainties of monsoon. Normally single crop is cultivated. There is a partial employment in forestry sector. Due to depletion of forest wealth their conditions have become harsh. Most of them migrate to near by towns / semi urban areas and work as construction labourers for their livelihood.

The affected tribals in the submergence village are deprived of modern fruits of development such as tap water, education, road, electricity, medical facilities, septic tank etc. The Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) of these PAFs have provided an opportunity for them to resettle in command area or other places with irrigated agricultural land with facilities of modern day civic amenities of roads, education, health etc. and they are willing to settle at new sites.

Q. The government of Gujarat as an environment ameliorative measures enlarged the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary near the dam site. It is estimated by some quarters that this would mean 40,000 adivasi people being displaced from about 101 forest villages within the boundaries of the park. Why these adivasis are not considered as project affected persons ?

It is ascertained that there is no plan for the involuntary displacement of the Adivasi (Tribal) people from the sanctuary area.

The Sardar Sarovar Project seeks to integrate environmental parameters in the overall framework of sustainable development of Narmada Basin. A detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of Shoolpaneshwar sanctuary which comprises a major watershed feeding the Sardar Sarovar and Karjan reservoir was undertaken as part of such ambitious project. Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary encompasses an area of 607.708 in Bharuch district, Gujarat state. It is in the Rajpipla (East) Forest Division, dominated by the Rajpipla hills.

In order to compensate the forest land submerged by the proposed reservoir, an area of 42,155 ha. is brought under plantation. However, Govt. of Gujarat have prepared an Action Plan for development of Dumkal Sloth Bear Sanctuary now renamed as Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. The area of the old sanctuary was enlarged four times and Action Plan was prepared for its development based on recommendations of a series of studies. Plan is already under implementation. There is no plan for the involuntary displacement of the Adivasi (Tribal) people from the sanctuary area. As such, the question of declaring these tribals as project affected does not arise. On the contrary, the development of sanctuary will enhance the life support system for the tribals.

The primary objective of the management plan is to halt the degradation of Shoolpaneshwar Wild Life Sanctuary, re-establish viable stock of  endangered wildlife species, conserve them as gene pools and channelise its benefits for the socio economic upliftment of  forest tribals. About all, the objective is also to safeguard the catchment area of Sardar Sarovar and Karjan reservoirs.

The Eco-development programme includes development of water facilities, SMC in human habitations, construction of school buildings, provision of mobile store, mobile medical units, upgrading livestock and veterinary facilities etc. and nature education and awareness programme for local villagers.

The plantation of firewood, timber, minor forest produce, bamboos and fruit species is undertaken in degraded forest areas and in cultivated fields. Soil and Moisture Conservation works like check dams, gully plugging and development of vantalavadi is also undertaken in these areas.

To ensure the above objectives and long term sustenance of ecosystem of the Shoolpaneshwar sanctuary, people's participation in wildlife conservation forms the core philosophy which will help in their socio-economic development.