New Internationalist

Narmada: The Facts

Issue 336

ndia suffers from widespread water scarcity. Rain comes in one seasonal period of deluge. Dams allow the deluge to be impounded and stored so that it can be used year-round in the same area or transferred to a water-short area by pipeline or canal. Opposition to dams – especially that of the Narmada Bachao Andolan – is representative of wider resistance to ‘development gigantism’.

Maan Damˆ4ˆ

• Height: 52 metres • Construction: 1992- • Submergence: 865 hectares • Villages: 17 • People displaced: 5,000 • Irrigated area: 19,200 hectares NBA action: 1997: Oustees begin mobilization 1998: Task Force review 1999: 26-day fast leads to stoppage 2000: Work restarts without resettlement 2001: Action under threat of submergence

Bargi Damˆ4ˆ

• Construction: 1984-90 • Submergence: 26,797 hectares • Villages: 162 (anticipated: 90) • People displaced: 114,000 (anticipated: 70,000) • Proportion tribal: 43% • Irrigated area: 8,000 hectares (anticipated: 437,000) NBA action: 1992: First mass action for just resettlement 1993: 55-day sit-in as waters rise 1994: Mass action in Bhopal 1997: Sit-in and hunger strike 2001: Many issues still outstanding

Sardar Sarovar Project ˆ4ˆ

• Final height: 139 metres
• Current height: 90 metres • Construction: 1987- • Reservoir length: 214 km • Submergence: 37,690 hectares • Villages: 245
• Canal network: 75,000 km • People displaced: 200,000
• Proportion tribal: 56% • Irrigated area: 1.8 million hectares NBA action: 1985: Mobilization begins in tribal belt 1988: Total opposition to dam 1989: Marches, sit-ins, fasts, arrests 1993: World Bank withdraws 1993: ‘Sacrifice in water’ threat 1994: National level review 1994: Petition in Supreme Court 1995: Construction halts 2000: Supreme Court judgement

Maheshwar dam ˆ4ˆ

• First privately constructed dam in India • Anticipated finance: US and Germany • Height: 36 metres • Purpose: Hydroelectricity • Construction: 1996- • Submergence: 5,697 hectares. • Villages: 61 • People displaced: 35,000 NBA action: 1998: First capture of dam-site 1998: Task Force review 1999: Sit-in and 26-day fast in Bhopal 1999: US and German companies withdraw 2000: German Government refuses loan guarantee 2000: US company Ogden withdraws

Projects under construction: 1 Sardar Sarovar 24 Indira Sagar 26 Maheshwar 27 Upper Veda 28 Maan 29 Goi 30 Jobat Projects completed: 8 Matiari 9 Bargi 17 Barna 18 Tawa 19 Kolar 22 Sukta

Dam after dam

India has over 4,000 large dams. Three-quarters of India’s dams are in the three states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and most are for irrigation. The figures show the rapid acceleration of dam construction through the last century.


The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) ˆ3ˆ

• Is a people’s movement which started in 1985 • Leadership is provided by Medha Patkar and other activists, unsalaried • Receives no funds from outside India • Employs tactics that are entirely non-violent; sit-ins, fasts, rallies, marches • Is a founder member of the National Alliance of People’s Movements • Has attracted an international network of support The achievements of the Narmada Bachao Andolan include: • Exit of the World Bank from Sardar Sarovar in 1993 • Halt of Sardar Sarovar construction 1994-99 • Withdrawal of foreign investors from Maheshwar dam 1999-2001

LUCY WILLS
LUCY WILLS

Pros and cons ˆ2ˆ

• Indian food production rose from 50 to 200 million tonnes 1950-1997; two-thirds of increase from irrigation • Data does not make clear what proportion of the increase was contributed by large dams: estimated 10%; Government claims 30% • Before 1978 all dams built without an environmental impact assessment (EIA). EIA became statutory only in 1994 • Estimates of those displaced by large dams in India in the last 50 years vary from 21 to 56 million people • 40% of those displaced are adivasis (tribal people) • Less than 50% of people displaced by large projects are rehabilitated • Construction occurs under the Official Secrets Act; access is denied, information is withheld, ‘participation’ is non-existent • The costs of dams are systematically underestimated and their benefits are inflated • Accepted cost-benefit ratio for large dams is not met in 8 out of 10 cases • Heavy silting shortens the life of many dams • There have been 17 cases of earthquake tremor induced by large reservoirs in India

  1. National Register of Large Dams – Central Water Commission 1994, New Delhi.
  2. India Country Study, prepared for World Commission on Dams, 2000 and Mid-Term Appraisal, Indian Planning Commission, 2000.
  3. Friends of the River Narmada, http://www.narmada.org
  4. As above, plus The River and Life: People’s Struggle in the Narmada Valley, Sanjay Sangvai, Earthcare Books, 2000

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