Letter: Life-saving dams

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The comment in "People of the flood vow to drown rather than move" (14 August) that the Narmada River Valley Project "was conceived during a craze for grandiose projects in India's post-independence era" is both misleading and untrue.

India has built hundreds of mega-dams since independence out of sheer necessity, to feed the hungry millions of the world's largest democracy. It was the foresight of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, which created these dams and today India is self-sufficient in food. Without them, the predictions of several Western economists in the Fifties that millions of Indians would die of starvation and famine by the end of the century would have come true.

This and 29 other dams will bring some 1.8 million hectares of land under irrigation for the first time in the most arid region of western India. Progress, whether in India, Europe or America, invariably entails displacement of people.

I would like to ask Agnes Poiret what alternatives she proposes to feed a population of a billion or more each in India and China in the new millennium. As one who has been intimately involved in water resources development in several developing countries, including India and China, for nearly 40 years, I know that the answer is more projects like the Narmada River Valley and the Three Gorges Dam.

Development projects in some of the poorest countries of the world are now being sacrificed by the World Bank and other international funding agencies at the altar of the environment.


Harrow, Middlesex