On Sunday, 5000 women from 157 countries came together to march in Washington, DC against increasing violence and poverty worldwide. They marched in front of the World Bank and IMF offices in Washington DC. In New York on Tuesday the women also marched, ending their march with a presentation before the United Nations voicing their concerns against the corporations and institutions that are attempting to put them on the streets.
Now today, in the Indian state of Gujrat, the government has declared a holiday. Why you may ask, and what does this have to do with globalization?
Well yesterday, the New Delhi Supreme Court gave the go-ahead for completing the highly controversial Sardar Sarovar dam project while rejecting the writ petitions filed by anti-dam activists and others.
The project had been stalled for four years as it was challenged in court by the petitioners on various grounds, one of the main issues being the displacement of millions of villagers and indigenous people who live in the dam’s path. The Government claims that the multi-purpose Sardar Sarovar Project would irrigate more than 1.8 million hectares and quench the thirst of the drought prone areas in the state of Gujarat. The Sardar Sarovar dam was being funded by the World Bank to the tune of $450 million, however the World Bank was forced to pull out when an independent commission endorsed the main concerns of activists and environmentalists.
And while the Sardar Sarovar dam project has been fought inside the courts, activists and residents on the outside have had to channel their resources to another big dam project, this one also in Narmada valley. The Maheshwar dam is one of 30 mega-dams and 135 medium sized dams in the Narmada valley. This dam will displace millions of people from their homes and livelihoods.
The dam’s supporters claim that the displaced will be resettled and provided with land. However, the Madhya Pradesh government admits that no agricultural land is available. In fact, of the 14,000 hectares required for the 7000 project affected families, only 25 hectares have been made available.
One of the corporations involved is the NY based Ogden. On March 23, as part of President Bill Clinton’s visit to India, Ogden signed a Memorandum of Intent develop the project. This means that Ogden would have a 49% equity stake in the project.
The Maheshwar dam is the first of the Narmada dams to be placed in the hands of the private sector. It will provide electricity at four times the current price and is expected to barely exceed 10% of its projected capacity. Despite the publication of a highly critical official report, and the withdrawal of a number of major Trans National Corporations, Siemens, a German corporation, and Ogden are still intent on funding the project.
- Sylvie Palit, an activist from India with the Friends of Narmada. She is currently in the US where she was meeting with Ogden officials and she also marched with other women from around the world in Washington, DC this past weekend.
- Patrick McCully, with International Rivers Network.