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Home > National Interest vs People’s Interest > India: Narmada Bachao Andolan [Save the Narmada Movement] started its work (...)

India: Narmada Bachao Andolan [Save the Narmada Movement] started its work 30 years ago. Today, it is a moral force | S. G. Vombatkere

9 August 2016

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Frontline, August 19, 2016

The Narmada Bachao Andolan started its work 30 years ago. Today, it is a moral force, and its most important contribution to India and the world is its continuance as a bastion of Gandhian truth and non-violence in an increasingly violent world. By S.G. VOMBATKERE

THE Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has completed 30 years of people’s resistance to the dam projects in the Narmada valley. In the early 1980s, the people of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the Narmada valley were shocked when the construction of 3,000 small, 135 medium and 30 major dams and canals was begun on the 1,312-kilometre-long Narmada river, which flows through an area that has had 5,000 years of continuous civilisation. The projects, which included two mega dams, Narmada Sagar and Sardar Sarovar, were supposed to irrigate two million hectares, feed 20 million people, provide drinking water for 30 million people, employ one million people and generate electric ity for agriculture and industry. The state was silent on the fact that the projects would inundate 37,000 hectares of forest and agricultural land, affecting the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of forest-dwelling and farming Adivasis and other rural families, and submerge ancient temples and towns with cultural and environmental significance for not only the people of the Narmada valley but also the rest of India. The social costs of human displacement and the loss of wildlife and forests were not a part of the crude (and perhaps manipulated) cost-benefit calculations. Perhaps the social ill effects were neglected because the project-affected families (PAFs) were predominantly Adivasi and rural, and they really did not matter even decades after Independence.

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