Report on dams boosts Narmada project

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Mon Nov 20 06:01:50 MST 2000

18 November 2000

Report on dams boosts Narmada project
LONDON: Contrary to expectations, the report by the World Commission on Dams
released in London has come as a major boost to the Narmada dam project in
The report, released here on Thursday, was expected to condemn the
construction of big dams outright and call for a moratorium on building
large dams. But the report stopped far short of condemning big dams and in
fact acknowledged the contribution made by big dams.
The report mentions the Narmada project several times without being critical
of it. The report says India has a good record in resettling displaced
people -- the one count on which many critics have campaigned to attack the
The Narmada dam issue has been hogging the headlines recently with the
Supreme Court giving the go-ahead to the construction of the massive Sardar
Sarovar Project (SSP) in Gujarat, causing a major setback to the anti-dam
campaign led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The world report says in its case study in India it found "agriculture and
homestead land being provided even to those who were landless as a part of
the resettlement process." In some cases "previously marginalized farmers
were given more land than they had originally." In speaking of the benefits
of dams built in India the report says that "a dam can effectively take a
resource from one group and allocate it to another."
The report says "dams have made an important and significant contribution to
human development and the benefits derived from them have been
considerable." The report, however, does speak of several difficulties
caused by the construction of large dams.
The long-awaited report was released in London by Nelson Mandela. He had
been expected to spearhead the anti-dam campaign, but instead he spoke about
his own need to order the building of a large dam when he was president of
South Africa. The dam was needed to supply power to Johannesburg and water
to the Lesotho hills around it, he said.
Mandela said: "We knew the controversy and complexities of such an
undertaking and had to carefully negotiate the political minefields and
legal challenges, taking into consideration environmental, financial, social
and economic impacts. A dam -- a means to an end -- which was one option
among others, emerged as our best option under the circumstances."
Mandela said: "Some say large dams offer solutions; others say large dams
create problems. The commission, as I understand from its report, to its
credit says neither."
The chairman of the World Commission on Dams, Kader Asmal, who is now
minister of education in South Africa, pointed out that "the truth is that
no typical dam exists." He said: "Is development paralysis the same thing as
Medha Patkar, leader of the NBA who was present at the launch, said that the
commission had not gone all the way "because of its composition."
She said there are many shortcomings in the report because "we could not
convince each of its members." Patkar, who was a member of the commission,
has added a note to the report that expresses her opposition to dams. But
she said that the report also contains warnings enough to people seeking to
build large dams. (IANS)
For reprint rights:Times Syndication Service
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