Slides in this set
An aid project in India, built to minimise the effects of droughts and
to provide energy and water to central and western India. It has
caused lots of controversy as many people have had to move so that
an area can be flooded to create a reservoir.
The Narmada River rises in the Maikala Range, to the south-east of
Jabalpur in central northern India. It flows west through a broad and
fertile valley to join the Arabian Sea via the Gulf of Cambay.
There has been a great deal
of controversy in recent
years regarding large scale
river dam projects, such as
the Three Gorges Project in
China. Whilst such projects
offer the prospect of
water supply and irrigation
they frequently involve the
flooding of agricultural land
and the submergence of
settlements. One of the most
controversial schemes at
present being implemented
involves the Narmada River
in India.…read more
Advantages Disadvantages The Indian government's plan is to construct 30 large,
135 medium and up to 3,000 small dams to harness
· Resolve power and · Thousands of people
water shortages in displaced without the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries. The
the surrounding compensation. government has put forward several reasons for the
area. · Many miles of canals dams :
· Minimise the effects will have to be built - there are serious water shortages in parts of
of drought. to transfer the water. Gujarat, which has been prone to droughts
· Bring 1450mw of · Destroy the rural
energy. economy and the -water for irrigation would open-up marginal land for
· Benefit several livelihoods of those agriculture and increase overall production
states. by the dam. -electricity (from H.E.P.) will help India along the path
· Encourages wildlife of development
to the surrounding
Economic Environmental Social
· Will cost a lot of money so there · Land flooded by reservoir. · Relieve some water shortages.
may have to be cuts. · Renewable energy source. · Many thousands of people have
· The electricity will help the · Reservoirs have been known to to move away from the area.
country to develop. cause severe earthquakes.
· River ecosystem badly affected.
'Large dams imply large budgets for related projects leading to large profits for a small group of people. A mass of
research shows that even on purely technical grounds, large dams have been colossal failures. While they have
delivered only a fraction of their purported benefits, they have had an extremely devastating effect on the riverine
ecosystem and have rendered destitute large numbers of people, whose entire sustenance and modes of living are
centred around the river. For no large dam in India has it been shown that the resettled people have been provided
with just compensation and rehabilitation.'
The International Rivers Network…read more
There are a great many opponents to the plan, both at home and abroad. The International
Rivers Network campaigns against large scale dam projects and it cites several reasons
why the Narmada plan should not go ahead in its current form :-
·The plan is unnecessarily large and costly. Smaller, more sustainable and localised
projects, perhaps using alternative technologies, could help to relieve some of the water
shortages in Gujarat.
·Some of the areas in greatest need of irrigation are planned to be at the far end of the
irrigation canal network and would not receive water until 2020.
·The plans are based on insufficient hydrological and seismic data - in the past, severe
earthquakes have been linked to reservoir construction.
·The potential benefits are being grossly exaggerated and have been based on inaccurate
·Up to 1 million people will be displaced and will need re-settlement. The development of
the largest dam, the Sardar Sarovar , alone is estimated to result in the displacement of
32,000 people. It will affect the livelihoods of thousands of others.
·The riverine ecosystem will be severely affected by the construction of the dams.…read more
The Maheshwar Dam
One of the 30 large dams in the Narmada Valley Development Project, the Maheshwar dam has been
particularly controversial. It is India's first privately financed dam, a decision made necessary by the
withdrawal of support from developmental organisations following massive public protests to the Narmada
Project as a whole. With an estimated construction cost of $US 530 million, it is planned to generate 400
Megawatts of energy.
The dam and subsequent flooding of the valley upstream is estimated to displace 35,000 people and
submerge 61 villages. Some of these people make their living from the river, fishing or extracting silt and
sand - they are landless and look likely to receive no compensation. Whilst the law requires land-for land
rehabilitation, critics report that some people have been offered cash alternatives because there is
insufficient land available (some 100,000 are still awaiting resettlement in the state following earlier dam
Up until 1998, despite work having already commenced on the dam construction, there had been no local
participation in the planning process. In 1998 a Task Force was set up consisting of representatives from the
affected peoples, planners, and the dam builders. Doubts were expressed about the cost-benefit analysis
(the cost of resettlement had been massively underestimated) and the Task Force recommended suspension
of work on the dam. The recommendation was ignored by the Madhya Pradesh government. A report
published by the German NGO Urgewald in 1999, following a study of the project, concluded that "if
compensation at replacement value would be undertaken the project would very likely not be economically
Following the publication of the report, two German backers (Bayernwerk and V.E.W.) pulled out on social
and environmental grounds. Whilst there are still some foreign companies involved, including the German
company Siemens, it seems increasingly likely that investment will need to come from within India itself.
Meanwhile the protests continue. They have taken the form of mass rallies (one involved 12,000 people) and
sit-ins (dharnas), some of which have resulted in violent actions by the police, such as tear gassing. With the
huge upwelling of local and international concern, the future of the project is by no means secure and it
remains a risky proposition for investors.…read more