Nehru declared, "Big dams are the temples of India." Since that statement, there are now in excess of 3,600 such structures. According to Indian government statistics, the average dam displaces 44,200 people. Simple arithmetic indicates that the number of people displaced is of the order of 159 million.
There is little doubt that a large proportion are now resident in the ever increasing slum developments which surround all the major towns and cities. Despite all the water now available, 200 million people have no safe water supply and two-thirds of the population have no basic sanitation. The dam projects do little for those in real poverty, as the resultant commerce tends to increase technical development in industry, creating more mechanisation and still less employment.
The Sardar Sarovar Dam will move more people than were recently ousted from Kosovo, and my experience of their rehabilitation is appalling. Any official who is more than one generation removed from direct contact with the land and animal husbandry will not be able to conceive the trauma that is involved when you move a tribal subsistence farmer from his land and the surrounding forest.
The sheer pressure of population, even in rural areas, means there is no land to resettle those ousted, an issue eventually recognised officially by district collectors in Maharashtra.
Madhya Pradesh has already submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court stating that there is no land available for rehabilitation in that state.
One such major project, the Bargi Dam built more than 20 years ago, still only irrigates 40 per cent of the planned area and many people are still awaiting relocation.
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