Of Earthquake and Dam
Derram Kemera and Medha Patkar
July 17, 2016. Night. the people from Surat to Bhavnagar woke
up tremors of the magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter scale. Surat hasn't experienced an earthquake of this magnitude for the past 50 years and the epicenter of this earthquake was about 100 km from the Sardar Sarovar Dam. News soon spread that the "Dam was Safe" and featured on the pages of the daily newspaper Gujarat Samachar which also reckoned that the Dam is strongly built to face tremors. However, the presence of a large Dam does not ensure the safety of the surrounding areas and the people residing there. In the cases of earthquakes from both the Bargi Dam on the Narmada or the Koyna Dam in Maharashtra; there was indeed a damage of crores of life and property. It is therefore necessary that the people of Gujarat realize the truth about the potential dangers of large Dams immediately!
All the dams being built on the Narmada including the Sardar Sarovar and other large Dams create various fault-lines, thereby making the entire region earthquake-prone. This fact is of course known to those in power. According to the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam, the foundation of the Sardar Sarovar Darn is claimed to be stronger than any other large Dam in the world. It is further claimed that the "treatment of geological fault involved 2,14,000m3 of excavation, 2,50,000m3 of rock excavation and 2,56,000m3 of pre-cooled concrete and 53,001 tonnes of reinforcement steel". This demonstrates that the Dam authorities have little or no concern for ecological balance (given the amount of excavation in the river), concerns over earthquake etc and completely turns a blind eye to the environment!
Given that the whole of the Narmada Valley is under threat along with Gujarat; it was agreed upon in 1987 that proper and complete research would be carried out on the issue of seismicity and also regularly informing the people of these changes. The 3 states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh took up the responsibility of setting up centres to measure earthquake indicators and magnitude levels. 9 centres were set up, with 5 in Gujarat, 3 in Madhya Pradesh and 1 in Maharashtra and despite regular visits and the expertise of experts from the USA and India; there has been no serious work undertaken on earthquake of magnitude levels over 3 in the Richter scale. It is also mentioned in the Annual Reports of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) that the Institute of Seismology Research and the Gujarat government had to conduct regular research work, which was however not done. This very serious research undertaking was also allotted only a meagre sum of Rs 6,82,7407 for research work from 1995-2003 and beyond these years as well; which also encompassed the research work done in 2007-09.
However, the findings of these research undertakings are not presented in the public domain.
The epicenter of the Kutch earthquake too was close to the Sardar Sarovar Dam and despite a petition filed by scientists such as the late Mukul Singh and others in the High Court, there was no hearing heId.
Let it be stated that there will be repeated attempts by the Government of Gujarat and the Central Government to not disclose all information related to the causes of earthquakes. Therefore, it is imperative for the people of Gujarat and particularly Kutch and Saurashtra, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh to speak up and demand for full truthful disclosure of information. It is also important that concerned citizens raise their voice against this injustice in addition to demanding that the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam not be closed under such circumstances!
Vol. 49, No.9, Sep 4 - 10, 2016