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India Anti-Dam Protesters Arrested

January 12, 2000

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ Police arrested more than 1,500 people, including Booker Prize-wining author Arundhati Roy, protesting a government decision to raise the height of a massive dam that they say will deluge 60 villages in western India, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The protesters converged Tuesday on the Maheshwar dam site in Madhya Pradesh state, 450 miles south of New Delhi, said Shripad Dharmadhikari, a spokesman for the Save Narmada Campaign. Those arrested were later released.

Roy left the area, but nearly 1,200 people continued the protest, Dharmadhikari said.

Roy has donated $35,000 from her 1997 Booker Prize money for ``The God of Small Things″ to the Save Narmada Campaign. She has called for alternative ways of achieving the government’s goals, such as rain water storage, building irrigation canals and finding other power-generating sources.

Authorities said the dam proposal will bring drinking water to 40 million people, irrigate land and generate electricity.

But critics say the project will displace 20,000 people in 60 villages.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam _ one of the largest of thousands of planned dams _ was raised to 289 feet in February, and the Narmada River has crept within 10 feet of villages in three Indian states since then.

Construction on the dams began 10 years ago and about $1.74 billion has been spent on the project so far.

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