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Making a Difference

Getting MAD about the Narmada River
May 13, 2000

Click image for larger view
In January, over 4,500 affected people gathered to protest the Maheshwar Dam (courtesy Friends of the Narmada River Valley)
"We do everything on our own two feet. There are no international NGOs here. The Indian government goes to America and begs, but we do everything ourselves."
   --Keshav Sirra Vasave, an Adivasi villager who works with the Narmada Bachao Andolan

If you can't already tell from my last two dispatches, The Ancient Communities of the Narmada River Part One and Part Two, the people of the Narmada River Valley have really captured my heart and my spirit. Their dedication, courage, and idealism inspire me, and I want to do all I can to help them.

What impresses me most, though, is their self-sufficiency. Like Keshav says in the quote above, they don't want our money. They also don't want foreign teachers or foreign "development" schemes.

So, what can we do to help?

Glad you asked! First, we can help raise awareness on this issue. Maybe one of us could write about it for an educational website used in classrooms around the world. Ok, I'll do that one.

Click image for larger view
People's homes have been flooded because of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project. But they refuse to leave despite the dangerously high waters (courtesy Friends of the Narmada River Valley)
For the rest of you, how about having an information night about the Narmada River and/or about the issue of big dams in general? You can get movies to show and information to hand out from the following sources:

Association for India's Development
P.O. Box 149
College Park, MD 20741 USA
(301) 513 0565

International Rivers Network
1847 Berkeley Way
Berkeley, CA 94703 USA
(510) 848-1155

And you can get in touch with the Friends of the Narmada River Valley here.

OK, so you've popped the popcorn and shown the movies and passed out the pamphlets--now what?!

A letter-writing campaign, of course! Let the governments know what you think about all of this. The Indian government wants to seem "hip" and "modern," like America and Europe. So what if a bunch of "hip, modern" students like you let them know that what they're doing isn't so cool?

Click image for larger view
Contrary to reports in the Indian press, more than 1,500 people were arrested at the demonstration last January (courtesy Friends of the Narmada River Valley)
Remember: letters worded nicely have a greater impact, so watch your tongue!

Points that you might want to mention:

-The large dams on the Narmada River will destroy ancient cultures, break up families, cause the slums to swell, inundate fertile lands and forests, and cause great environmental damage.

-There is no adequate land to resettle the people who will lose their lands.

-The US has placed a moratorium on big dam building -- and has even been decommissioning some of its large dams based on the negative environmental impacts they have had.


Inundate - to overwhelm (as in a flood)
Moratorium - definition
Decommission - to remove from service

-The plans for the Sardar Sarovar Dam were made using inaccurate data.

-Alternative methods of water harvesting have been used very successfully in the "target areas."

-The money saved from dam building could be better used helping the people on a community level, through projects such as water harvesting, education, and sustainable development.

Below are some of the politicians anxiously waiting to hear from go to it!

President of India
Dr. K.R. Narayanan
Rashtrapati, Bhavan, New Delhi
Fax (011) 3014570
Fax (011) 3017290

Prime Minister of India
Mr. A.B. Vajpayee
South Block
New Delhi 110 004
Fax (011) 301 6857
Fax (011) 301 9545

Chief Minister of Gujarat
Mr Keshubhai Patel
Nava Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar
Gujarat 382 010
Fax (02712) 22101

Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh
Mr. Digvijay Singh
Vallabh Bhavan
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Fax: (0755) 540 501


Abeja - Journey along the Narmada River
Andrew - Hot Time in the Old City
Kavitha - Truth or Fairy Tale?
Team - Behind the Burqa….The Human Rights Violations Against Women in Afghanistan

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