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The 92-metre-high Narmada Sagar (262 metres above mean sea level, which is the way dam heights are usually referred to) is the second-highest dam of the many large dams on the Narmada. The Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat is the highest. The reservoir of the Narmada Sagar is designed to be the largest in India. In order to irrigate 1,23,000 hectares of land, it will submerge 91,000 hectares! This includes 41,000 hectares of prime dry deciduous forest, 249 villages and the town of Harsud. According to the detailed project report, 30,000 hectares of the land in the Narmada Sagar command was already irrigated in 1982.
New Harsud is nothing but mile upon mile of stony, barren land in the middle of nowhere. A few hundred of the poorest families of Harsud have moved there and live under tarpaulin and tin sheets. (The rest have placed themselves at the mercy of relatives in nearby towns, or are using up their meagre compensation on rented accommodation. In and around Chhanera, rents have skyrocketed.) In New Harsud, there's no water, no sewage system, no shelter, no school, no hospital. Plots have been marked out like cells in a prison, with mud roads that criss-cross at right angles. They get water from a tanker. Sometimes they don't. There are no toilets and there is not a tree or a bush in sight for them to piss or shit behind. When the wind rises, it takes the tin sheets with it. When it rains, the scorpions come out of the wet earth. Most important of all, there's no work in New Harsud. No means of earning a livelihood.People can't leave their possessions in the open and go off in search of work. So the little money they have been paid, dwindles. Of course, cash compensation is only given to the Head of the Family, that is: to men. What a travesty for the thousands of women who are hit hardest by the violence of displacement.In Chhanera, the booze shops are doing brisk business. When media attention trails away, so will the water tankers. People will be left in a stony desert with no option but to flee. Again.And this is what is being done to people from a town.
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