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The Dam and the Post-truth

The Sardar Sarovar dam exemplifies unjust and unsustainable development.

In the age of post-truth and alternate facts, perhaps one should not be surprised with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statements as he inaugurated the multipurpose Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat on his 67th birthday on 17 September. Virtually dismissing the complex and controversial history of the dam project that has stretched over three decades, Modi claimed, “I decided that with or without the World Bank, we would go ahead with the project.” The facts are rather different. He also claimed that donations from “the temples of Gujarat” came in to help finance the project after the World Bank pulled out of its funding commitment. Once again, he was stretching the truth.

The Sardar Sarovar dam, one of the 30 large, 135 medium and 3,000 small dams that are being built on the Narmada river, was not financed by temples. It was paid for by government funds after the World Bank, which had extended a loan of $300 million, pulled out before releasing its final tranche in 1993. It is the reason behind the World Bank’s decision, and the people’s struggle against it that are a part of the narrative on the history of this project. And it is this history that we must remember without embellishment to draw from it the crucial lessons India needs to heed as it goes ahead. That Modi chose to dismiss this as “a massive disinformation campaign” against the project only goes to show how, irrespective of the party in power, the message of responsible, equitable and sustainable development has yet to find a mark.

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Updated On : 15th Nov, 2017


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