FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
It is time to rethink the ‘big dams’ model of development
Posted:Sep 18, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
The scientific imagination that put big dams at the centre of a national development paradigm belongs to a century long gone. The prevalent ideology around the world at the time when dams such as the Sardar Sarovar were envisioned have undergone a sea change in the decades it has taken to bring it to conclusion.
 
The original thought behind building dams to harness the power of rivers was the promise of clean, pollution-free, hydropower that would bring electricity to many districts in India. But this outlook was changing even in the 1950s. Nehru himself, who famously called dams ‘temples of modern India’ in 1954 while inaugurating the Bhakra Nangal had changed his mind by 1958, observing that we in India might be suffering from “the disease of gigantism” and rooted for smaller irrigation projects. In a letter to chief ministers in 1957, Nehru had pointed out the need to balance development projects with the need to protect the environment.
 
Internationally too, there have now been many attempts to do away with large projects that disrupt not just the lives and livelihoods of the people who live in these areas, but also aid the destruction of the ecosystem of the region. According to the non-profit organisation American Rivers, over a thousand dams have been removed till date in the USA alone. An article published in the Scientific American outlined the problems of water quality and ecosystems that came in the wake of building even modest sized dams. The near extinction of the fish such as the Atlantic salmon and sturgeons has been directly linked to the presence of dams on their migration routes. In fact several studies have recognised the building of dams as having the most substantial impact on the destruction of riverine ecosystems. The building of the Aswan Dam in Egypt has been blamed for the erosion of the Nile River delta, deterioration of agriculture in the area, and the increased incidents of parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis.
 
The other major problem with such large projects is the problem of rehabilitation of displaced people. This is, of course, not counting the fact that the land that tribal communities and others have occupied for centuries is not just something that can be measured in acres and rupees. The cost of history and memory that lies in land and ancestral property can never be reimbursed.
 
India’s record of adequately rehabilitating people displaced by such projects is abysmal. Around 50 million people have been displaced due to development projects in India. In spite of this massive number of affected people, there is a glaring lack of a formal policy of rehabilitation and resettlement for displaced people. Given the terrible status of records of land titles, and the worse records of those who don’t own land such as landless labourers, it is almost always the case that many displaced people are never considered for rehabilitation. According to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), many people displaced by the Bhakra project are yet to be rehabilitated at all.
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
Senior representatives from the US, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan met in Muscat, Oman, on Monday to revive stalled peace talks with the Taliban, but the insurgent group failed to participate in the meeting being held after a year.
 
read-more
Ruskin Bond’s first novel ‘Room on the Roof’ describes in vivid detail how life in the hills around Dehradun used to be. Bond, who is based in Landour, Mussoorie, since 1963, captured the imagination of countless readers as he painted a picture of an era gone by.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
Braid-chopping incidents have added to the already piled up anxieties of Kashmiris. Once again they are out on the streets, to give vent to their anger. A few persons, believed to be braid-choppers were caught hold by irate mobs at various places. They were beaten to pulp.
 
read-more
Communist parties everywhere gather the ranks every five years to review the past, set future direction, renew political leadership and rejig organisational structure.
 
read-more
In a move lauded worldwide, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud recently issued a royal decree allowing women to obtain driving licences.
 
read-more
The death toll from Saturday’s twin truck bombs in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has crossed 300.
 
read-more
On “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century”
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive