ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Gomathy BalasubramanianSubscribe to Gomathy Balasubramanian

Sardar Sarovar Project: The War of Attrition

The Sardar Sarovar Dam reached a height of 121.92 m in 2006 and at this height the dam has enough water to generate most of the promised benefits - irrigation, drinking water, and electricity. However, currently only 30% of the targeted villages receive regular water supplies, less than 20% of the canal network has been constructed and power generation remains well below the generation capacity reached. Even as the dam construction nears completion, rehabilitation of several thousand families is poor or incomplete. This, for a project that has had clearly laid out legal mandates to alleviate human and environmental costs, and has been under continuous public scrutiny and Supreme Court monitoring. The performance of this project does not seem very different from other Indian major irrigation and power projects: while main civil works somehow get completed, infrastructure and efforts necessary to realise benefits of the projects remain incomplete. The experience of people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project is fairly consistent with the experiences of millions displaced by other projects across the country, wherein the State uses the colonial Land Acquisition Act to dispossess people from their homes, lands and livelihoods, and consistently refuses to create just resettlement and rehabilitation entitlements and accountability frameworks to enable restoration of their livelihoods and their dignity. Instead, it promotes cash compensation (often aggressively and violently) to make people give up their homes, villages, land and other natural resources.
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