Why did the Narmada Bachao Aandolan oppose the dam projects in the Narmada Valley?

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is a social movement comprising environmentalists and human rights activists who have been protesting against the construction of dams built across river Narmada. The movement has many eminent personalities associated with it who are fighting against the displacement of the people and for their rehabilitation.

a. The debate and controversy surrounding the construction of dams on river Narmada basically reflects the struggle for a just and equitable society in India.

b. The government’s plan is to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries. The proponents of the dam claim that this plan would provide large amount of water and electricity required for development.

c. It is believed that if the project is completed, then it will be the largest irrigatio project to be  implemented in the world.

d. The controversy surfaces over the construction of Sardar Sarovar Project in the state of Gujarat and Narmada Indira Sagar project in MP.

e. Those opposing the dam question the very rationale behind its construction and argue that its planning is flawed and unjust.

f. They argue that construction of such project is causing large scale violation of human rights and displacement of the poor and underprivileged.

g. It is argued that Sardar Sarovar Project, which is the multipurpose project, comes with a cost as it affects the villagers who are being forcibly evacuated.

h. In the process of construction of the dam, 245 villages from these states were expected to get submerged. It required relocation of around two and a half lakh people from these villages.

i. Large number of local groups organised protests against the construction of the dam, voicing concerns of the poor people residing in villages who were to be affected. Later, it got culminated into the Narmada Bachao Andolan under the leadership of Medha Patkar in 1989.

j. Since its inception, the NBA has had many protests, demonstrations and sit-ins and it has captured media attention, both nationally and internationally.

k. NBA has raised bigger issues concerning the nature of ongoing developmental projects and efficacy of the model of development that the country has been pursuing, which so far has ignored the interest of the underprivileged.

l. It demanded that there should be a cost-benefit analysis of the major developmental projects.

m. NBA also demanded that the government must not overlook the social costs of its developmental plans that include a serious loss of means of livelihood, culture of the local people and depletion of ecological resources.

n. The movement also raised the question of customary rights of the indigenous people to live in close harmony with nature.

o. Along with demanding a just rehabilitation of those displaced, it also demanded the entire decision making process and called for participation of the local community members in the process.

p.  Thus, the NBA demanded that the state must involve all stakeholders including indigenous people, communities, forest dwellers. NGO's. etc. in the development, implementation and planning of national forest policies. States must duly support the identity, culture and the rights of indigenous people, their communities and other communities and forest dwellers

Impact of NBA:

a. The government and the judiciary recognised the right to rehabilitation of those displaced.

b. The government formulated a comprehensive National Rehabilitation Policy in 2003.

c. Although the Supreme Court upheld government’s decision to construct the dam, it also called for proper rehabilitation.

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