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Large Dams The Right Perspective

Ramaswamy R Iyer We cannot, on environmental grounds, say 'No' to large dams and reservoirs; nor can we, having regard to projections of demand and availability, accept the view that there is no need for such projects. We should certainly accord priority to the utilisation of the potential already created, the reclamation of the potential which has been lost through misuse, and a vast improvement in water management (including both economy in use and recycling). We must encourage extensive local water-harvesting, and undertake re-greening and other measures to retard the rate of run-off and improve the retention of water in the ground. We should also place a much greater emphasis than in the past on minor irrigation, which calls for less immediate investment, promises quicker results, and presents fewer problems. Possibilities such as the use of seawater and the tapping of deep underground aquifers also need to be examined. However, we cannot rule out investment in at least some large-dam projects. Large and small projects, and the use of surface water and groundwater, have to be integral parts of an overall plan of land-use and water-use Jar a drainage basin or watercourse system as a whole. At the same time, considering the heavy costs (financial, human, social and environmental) involved in large-dam projects, we have to be highly selective and extremely cautious regarding approvals to such projects.

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