23/4/98: OVER 2000 ARRESTED AT MAHESHWAR SITE
Maheshwar update from Shripad/Sukumar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, April 23, 1998
People once again occupy dam site - brutal beatings and massive arrests by
The struggle in Maheshwar continued today as over 800 men and women
again dodged the police barricades and occupied the dam site. The
occupation took place in broad daylight showing the complete command of the
people on the local terrain. The police had arrested all the 1500 or so
people who had remained at the dam site yesterday evening.
Today the people, determined to regain the occupation, launched the
at about 10.30 a.m. Dodging the police barricades the people reached the
dam site and stuck the NBA flag into the soil. Then the state showed its
brutal face. Within 10 minutes of the occupation, the police arrived in
some strength, and without any warning or provocation launched a brutal
assault on the people. The police started beating the people with batons,
rifle butts, and also stampeded horses (by a few mounted police). The
police with batons, rifles and horses chased the people for almost half a
kilometer, repeatedly beating and abusing them. At least 14 people with
grievous injuries have been admitted to the hospital by the police, and
over 500 arrested. Some firing in the air also took place with the intent
to scare the people. It is learnt that there were many others who were
badly beaten and have not been admitted to the hospital but taken to jail.
With this, over 2000 people are in jail, and over 25 in the hospital.
Stories of brutality on women and men are still coming in. Work is
proceeding (albeit haltingly) under massive police protection. The State
has shown its brutal face - trying to callously beat the people into
submission. However, the people are determined to continue their struggle
and stop the work at the dam site.
* * *
To protest the police brutality at the Maheshwar dam site, send messages
to: Shri Digvijai Singh, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, Fax +91
755 540 501.
In a case of global shareholder activism, NGOs yesterday requested ABB
reconsider its focus on large hydropower projects. A resolution which the
Berne Declaration and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation submitted
to ABB's AGMs on April 2 was supported by major institutional investors.
* * *
ABB AG and ABB AB, Asea Brown Boveri's parent companies, held their
Switzerland and Sweden on April 2. The events were marked by debates over
ABB's involvement in large hydropower projects. Two environmental groups,
the Berne Declaration (BD) and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
(SSNC), submitted identical resolutions proposing a review of the company's
hydropower strategy. At ABB's AGM in Zurich, BD secretary Peter Bosshard
argued that due to public concern about social and environmental impacts,
large dam projects were increasingly associated with cost overruns and
schedule slippage. "When private investors and public funders shy away from
large dams, focussing on such projects for ABB becomes a strategy of high
risk and low returns", Bosshard commented at the AGM.
At the AGM in Vasteras, Goran Eklof of SSNC pointed out that ABB was
completely neglecting research and development of renewable energy
technologies. "Unless the company reconsiders its power generation
strategy, it will fall behind the more innovative competitors", Eklof
warned. SSNC and the Berne Declaration based their critique of ABB's
hydropower strategy on a report entitled, "High Risk - Low Return?", which
they had jointly published in February 1998.
The NGO resolution was supported by CIA, the pension fund of the Geneva
state employees. CIA is holding 12,800 shares of ABB AG. Major US ethical
investors such as Franklin Research & Development, the U.S. Trust of Boston
and Walden Capital Management also supported the concerns of the
environmental groups. Franklin, U.S. Trust and Walden, which presently do
not hold ABB shares, informed ABB's management that they would seriously
consider the response to the NGO resolution before investing in ABB shares.
The three investors manage funds of more than 4 billion dollars in total.
Speaking on their behalf, Julie Tanner of the National Wildlife Federation
supported the NGO resolution at the AGM in Zurich. "The proposal
demonstrates that for ABB, incorporating social and environmental concerns
in its business strategy can indeed make economic sense", Tanner argued.
The chairmen of the boards of ABB AG and ABB AB in their response did
defend the questionable financial viability of ABB's hydropower strategy.
They instead refered to the newly-created World Commission on Dams (WCD),
which was mandated to investigate all questions regarding large dam
projects. As ABB's CEO Goran Lindahl was a member of the WCD, the two
chairs stipulated, there was no need for a separate study on ABB's
* * *
. Peter Bosshard, Berne Declaration, phone (41 1) 271 64 25, e-mail
. Goran Eklof, SSNC, phone (46 8) 702 65 82, e-mail email@example.com, or
Mats Djurberg, SSNC, phone 702 65 09, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The report, "High Risk - Low Return?" and the shareholder resolution
available on the BD's website (www.access.ch/evb/bd).
The Berne Declaration (BD) is a Swiss public-interest group with 16,000
individual members. Through research, popular education and advocacy work,
it has promoted more equitable North-South relations since 1968. The
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation was founded in 1909. With its
170,000 members, it is the largest and oldest environmental organization in
Sweden. The United States' largest member-supported conservation group, the
National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life to
protect nature, wildlife and the world we all share.
21/3/98 : POLICE TAKE OVER MAHESHWAR DAM
MAHESHWAR DAM, India, March 31, 1998 (ENS) - On Saturday, a thousand
took over the site of the
Maheshwar Dam on the Narmada River in the central Indian state of Madhya
Citizen demonstrations in January by more than 25,000 people had forced
halt to the dam construction and a review of the project. Activists believe
the police occupation may be an attempt to start work on the project
without their approval. The police have blocked all the routes to the dam
site, effectively sealing it off.
The review process had been moving along, with the last meeting of the
Force held on February 28. The government made documents available to the
citizens and promised to provide a document stating why the project is
necessary, the least cost, and why it should be built. A meeting of the
Task Force was set for April 15-16.
The project, the first privatised hydroelectric power project in India,
being built by S. Kumars company, which is seeking collaboration with
multinational companies like Pac-Gen, Siemens and Asea Brown Boveri (ABB).
The Save the Narmada Movement objects to the project because the reservoir
created by this dam would submerge fertile tracts of cotton, chili, wheat
and well-settled 61 villages with a population of about 100,000.
S. Kumars has been running full page ads in local newspapers stating
"massive benefits" of the project and "minimal displacement," ads that the
citizen demonstrators objected to.
On March 4 an urgent meeting was called by the chair of the Task Force
investigating the citizen complaints to discuss the possibility of allowing
some construction at the dam for "safety purposes." S. Kumars asked to
construct a 240 meter (780 foot) high protective wall to prevent damage and
ensure the safety of the work done so far. The Save the Narmada Movement
Shripad Dharmadhikary of the Save the Narmada Movement says the stoppage
work, the project review and the large amount of international attention to
the project seems to have scared off investors. Before the citizen
occupation S. Kumars said that they had all but ten percent of the needed
funding for the dam. But now, because of the occupation, sources of funding
seem to have evaporated.
"So," says Dharmadhikary, "S. Kumars wants to show that the review is
nothing but a political concession made just before the elections. This
they can do only if the work starts."
On March 11, the state government of Madhya Pradesh through its Narmada
Valley Development Authority (NVDA) issued a notification that "any work
for the purposes of safety and resettlement" except work on powerhouse, dam
and land acquisition would be permitted.
On March 16, the company brought in a number of pumps to the site and
started pumping out water of the excavation pits. The enraged village
people sent a letter to the Chief Minister March 19 calling on him to stop
the work. Having no response, on March 23, over 500 people marched to the
dam site and told the company people to vacate in three days.
On March 25, the Chief Minister called Save the Narmada Movement activists
Alok Agarwaal and Chittaroopa Palit to meet him urgently. He requested them
again and again to allow construction - but when it was pointed out to him
that the wall is a permanent structure and would require blasting, he
agreed to look into it and give his response on March 30.
On March 26, over 800 people from the Maheshwar area gathered in Bhopal,
the state capital, for a one day demonstration, and a delegation again met
the Chief Minister.
The people had earlier announced a big rally at the dam site for April
The event was planned even before the most recent turn of events, but it
has now assumed a larger significance.
On Saturday more than a thousand police appeared and sealed off the
site. They are claiming that this is a precautionary measure in case the
citizens take some action on April 3.
The demonstrators believe the police presence is a cover under which
company can again start construction. Save the Narmada Movement has told
the police that they need not fear for anything on April 3. "We will do
whatever we want openly, by announcing it well in advance - just as we had
announced the occupation 10 days in advance," said Dharmadhikary.
The demonstrators are now waiting for word from the Chief Minister and
planning for the rally. The people are surging with enthusiasm and anger
and are determined not to let the work start on the dam.
Over 180 painters from all over the country, including many of the leading
ones, have contributed their paintings for the Save the Narmada Movement.
An exhibition of these paintings opened on March 26 in Bombay under the
name of "Artists for a Sustainable World."
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