Development and Displacement

"If you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the country.”

  - Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking to villagers who were to be displaced by the Hirakud Dam, 1948.

Development induced displacement

Since India's independence in 1947, there has been a surge of economic development activities in the form of massive infrastructure development projects such as the construction of dams for power and irrigation, the building of roads, urbanization, mining, building of thermal power plants, etc. Proponents of large dams argue that only these types of massive projects can improve India's economy and the lives of millions of people. But the flip side of this sort of development is that it has displaced more than 42 million people in the country.

            

Doomed by Displacement-A Short Film on the displaced affected by Hirakud Dam 

Dams for irrigation and hydropower are a major cause of such forced displacement. World over “approximately fifteen million people each year are forced to leave their homes following big development projects.” [Bogumil Terminski, Environmentally Induced Displacement. Theoretical Frameworks and Current Challenges, Liege, 2012].

The poorest and most marginalized people are generally hit the hardest by displacement, most often without adequate compensation. Many displaced families have been displaced three or four times. “In India, 50 million people have been displaced in the last 50 years in the name of ‘national’ interest“. [Parshuram Ray, Development Induced Displacement in India, SARWATCH Vol. 2 No. 1 July 2000).

Official figures of the number of displaced people are just underestimates. This is usually done to present a good cost benefit ratio to project clearance agencies and funders. The World Bank has put the number of people displaced by the Farakka Super Thermal Power plant in West Bengal as 63325 while Indian government figures suggest that no one was displaced. [Walter Fernandes, Displacement - What is all the fuss about? Humanscape, November 1999]. In the case of the Bargi dam, the number of villages submerged increased from the initial figure of 101 to 162. Likewise, in the case of various other large dams in the country, the number of submerged villages has increased and estimates of displaced villages have failed, which lead to unplanned displacement.

History of dams and displacement

Most of the displacement in India is due to the construction of large dams. The lives and livelihoods of millions of displaced people across the country have been destroyed, but the state governments are still not interested in addressing basic issues related to the displaced. “The millions of displaced people in India are nothing but refugees of an unacknowledged war.”(Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good, Frontline, June 4, 1999).

The callous attitude of the state can be attributed to the fact that “most displaced persons are assetless rural poor like landless labourers and small and marginal farmers (Gandhi’s last man). The tribals who comprise 8.08% of India’s population are estimated to be more than 40% of the displaced population. Dalits constitute 20% of displaced persons.” [Walter Fernandes, Displacement - What is all the fuss about? Humanscape, November 1999]

     

From Development To Displacement- A short film on the displacement due to Bargi dam, Madhya Pradesh

Displacements due to dams and canals have been traumatic and dehumanising. The displaced family's livelihood, their family, kinship systems, cultural identity and informal social networks were badly affected and disrupted.The condition of the women is even more traumatic. Lack of policy framework and social securities has made them insecure and psychologically very weak.

The monetary compensation paid to the displaced was not enough to sustain their livelihoods. The lame assurances by the government has never become a reality and it has lead to tragic consequences. Large-scale dam building has been able to deliver very little in terms of benefits. Many projects are able to irrigate just 20% of the command area but the harm they do to the environment and people is immense.

Rehabilitation and resettlement: Policy framework

Massive land acquisition has taken place in India since the 1950s to build large projects for irrigation, power, steel and heavy industries. Yet we did not have proper laws to address the rehabilitation and resettlement issues of the displaced. After a long struggle by people’s organisations and environmental groups, the protest against displacement grew violent and the need for a policy and legal framework came into existence in 2007 when the Government of India formulated a national policy for rehabilitation and resettlement by replacing the earlier policy of 2003.

Till date, there is no policy which suggests alternatives for displacement.

In August 2013, the Government of India came up with a comprehensive Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation (LARR) Act, 2013. The Act provides for rehabilitation & resettlement and combines it with land acquisition so the former does not get neglected. The ‘public purpose’ for which land can be acquired by the government is defined.

As per the above legislation, a comprehensive rehabilitation and resettlement package is provided for those who lost their livelihood support which includes the landless and tenants. The Act also provides for schools and playgrounds, health centers, roads and electric connections and assured sources of safe drinking water for each family. The role of the gram sabha has been clearly stressed and the government has to consult them. The Government has to also comply with other laws like Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996; the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006; and Land Transfer Regulations in Schedule V (Tribal) Areas.

Damning the dam: Case of Narmada Bachao Andolan

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a struggle against several major dams across the Narmada river in the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh is a leading anti-dam movement in the world. The government went ahead with the decision of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) in 1979 to construct some 30 major, 135 medium and 3000 small dams. The locals opposed the construction of the large dams as the government had not only flouted environmental norms, but also did not have a rehabilitation policy in place then. The dams were displacing large numbers of poor (dalits and tribals). The main flash point of the movement was on the question of raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat.

A Narmada Diary: Documentary by Anand Patwardhan

The dam proponents were pushing it because it would generate water (for irrigation and drinking water) and much needed power for development purposes. Activists like Medha Patkar who set up NBA in 1989, provided a strong critique to the project by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). They questioned the project’s cost-benefit analysis, it’s hydrologic and seismicity- related assumptions and felt that it was iniquitous and did not give fair compensation to the displaced. The World Bank was forced to do an independent review (also known as the Morse Commission) of the project in 1991. The Commission gave an adverse report following which the Government of India pulled out of the loan agreement with the World Bank. The Supreme Court’s decision of 2000 on raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam gave a stimulus to the construction of the dam in ‘national interest’. The drought-prone areas of Gujarat like Kutch and Saurashtra are yet to get water from the project.

Alternative solutions

There are various cheap and effective solutions available as an alternate to dams. These alternative models, which include reviving traditional systems of water harvesting in various parts of Rajasthan and other parts of India, has changed the economy of farmers and also addressed drinking water problems in the region. There is enough scope for applying rainwater harvesting models and building small check dams for storing water to bring a significant amount of in the lives of millions.

References 

http://www.countercurrents.org/en-jensen220904.htm 

http://www.narmada.org/gcg/gcg.html 

  • A little over a third of the world's 246 long rivers remain free-flowing, as per a study by a team of 34 international researchers, including those from McGill University in Canada and World Wildlife Fund India. The study, which assessed the connectivity status of 12 million kilometres of rivers wor...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 day 7 hours agoread more
  • The Yamuna was considered a nurturing and life-enhancing goddess in the past. Legend has it that bathing in the sacred waters of the Yamuna, the sister of Yama, the god of death, frees one from the ordeal of death. The 1376-km river is a tributary of the Ganga and originates in the Yamunotri gl...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 2 weeks 13 hours agoread more
  • NGT seeks report on constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees The National Green Tribunal has ordered the environment ministry to submit a report on the constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees (BMC) at the local level in every state within three months. Taking note of blatant no...
    swatiposted 3 weeks 13 hours agoread more
  • India, the second largest population in the world, is facing a water crisis with over 600 million people facing acute water shortage, as per a report by Niti Aayog, the government think-tank. India’s water crisis is expected to worsen, threatening the country’s food security as over 80 percent o...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 3 weeks 1 day agoread more
  • Kerala government failed to use dams for flood control: Amicus curiae informs high court The court-appointed amicus curiae has reported to the Kerala High Court that the main cause of August 2018 floods in the state was the failure of the Kerala government to use the 79 dams for flood control. The ...
    swatiposted 1 month 6 days agoread more
  • CWC data shows water storage in major river basins depleting According to the recent data from the Central Water Commission (CWC), water storage in more than 60 percent of the basins is much lesser when compared to the average water storage over the last 10 years. The CWC monitored 12 river basins ...
    swatiposted 1 month 6 days agoread more
  • Odisha is home to 11 major rivers of which many are interstate rivers such as the Mahanadi. As climate change makes extreme rainfall events more frequent in the state, there is an urgent need to better manage the rivers and their basins. Most of these rivers are faced with conflicts arising from iss...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 1 month 1 week agoread more
  • The recent news on the forced eviction of more than 1,000,000 tribal and other forest-dwelling households from 16 states by a Supreme Court order has again brought the long-debated issue of the role of the state and the community in forest governance to the forefront. The order comes in response to ...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 1 month 1 week agoread more
  • Lower Subansiri hydel project: SC seeks review of NGT's order granting nod to the project Setting aside the order of the National Green Tribunal giving a go-ahead to the 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project, the Supreme Court has called for a review of the project. The court has found fau...
    swatiposted 1 month 2 weeks agoread more
  • Activists seek President, PM intervention to protect mangrove trees in Maharashtra Environmental groups Nature Connect and Shree Ekvira Aai Pratishtan (SEAP) have written to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect 53,465 mangrove trees from destruction by the bull...
    swatiposted 1 month 2 weeks agoread more
  • Centre amends hazardous and other wastes rules 2016 to ban import of solid plastic waste In order to include the prohibition on the import of solid plastic waste even in special economic zones (SEZ) and by export-oriented units (EOU), the environment ministry has amended the Hazardous and...
    swatiposted 2 months 3 days agoread more
  • In India, women often travel long distances to fetch water. This in turn affects school attendance for young girls, and has a domino effect on other development indicators. Women and girls are an important stakeholder to be considered in the design of interventions and programmes to ensure access to...
    priyadposted 2 months 1 week agoread more
  • Not just surface water, pollution leads to deficit in dissolved oxygen in Ganga's riverbed sediment: Study A study conducted by the researchers at the Institute of Science, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi has found that the excess pollution in the Ganga river is not only polluting the water but ...
    swatiposted 2 months 1 week agoread more
  • Wildlife clearance granted to Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train corridor The committee led by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has granted wildlife clearance to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed train corridor. The project clearance has been given to divert around 216 hectares of land from in...
    swatiposted 3 months 1 day agoread more
  • "An eternal life free of sins" is the promise that comes attached with the magnificent occasion of Kumbh Mela. The 2019 Ardh Kumbh that takes place once in six years is just around the corner. Starting January 15, crores of people from around the world will take a dip in the Triveni Sangam—the con...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 4 months 4 days agoread more
  • Himachal, Kerala, TN front-runners in NITI Aayog index on development goals NITI Aayog has come out with a baseline index for the performance of all states based on various UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and found that Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are among the front-runner...
    swatiposted 4 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India where forest fires are reported almost every season. As per Indian state of forest report 2017, India saw a 46 percent increase in the number of forest fires in the last 16 years. Forest fires not only affect the flora and fauna of the region bu...
    makarandpurohitposted 5 months 1 day agoread more
  • Droughts are one of the most feared natural calamities in India impacting food production, the economy as well as the morale of millions of farmers in a country where agriculture is the livelihood of 60 percent of the population. This year too, 255 districts of the country have received deficient o...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 5 months 3 days agoread more
  • Most nations lack the political will to fight climate change: COP24 According to a recent report, Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019, released by Germanwatch and the NewClimate Institute at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP 24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chang...
    swatiposted 5 months 5 days agoread more
  • Put aside Rs 500 crore for lake clean-up: NGT to Karnataka government Taking note of the authorities' neglect of pollution in Bellandur and Varthur lakes, the National Green Tribunal has ordered the Karnataka government to put aside Rs 500 crore towards the cleaning up of these lakes. The tribunal ...
    swatiposted 5 months 5 days agoread more

Pages

A study finds out dams and reservoirs diminish diverse benefits offered by healthy rivers.

A little over a third of the world's 246 long rivers remain free-flowing, as per a study by a team of 34 international researchers, including those from McGill University in Canada and World Wildlife Fund India. The study, which assessed the connectivity status of 12 million kilometres of rivers worldwide, found that there are about 2.8 million dams along this stretch.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

A sensor network system is being used for mapping and monitoring the water quality of river Yamuna.

The Yamuna was considered a nurturing and life-enhancing goddess in the past. Legend has it that bathing in the sacred waters of the Yamuna, the sister of Yama, the god of death, frees one from the ordeal of death. The 1376-km river is a tributary of the Ganga and originates in the Yamunotri glacier in the lower Himalayas. It passes through several states in north India including Uttarakhand, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi where the river was once its lifeline.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

NGT seeks report on constitution of Biodiversity Management Committees

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Civil society activists champion alternatives to conventional water management solutions implemented by the government.

India, the second largest population in the world, is facing a water crisis with over 600 million people facing acute water shortage, as per a report by Niti Aayog, the government think-tank. India’s water crisis is expected to worsen, threatening the country’s food security as over 80 percent of our water is used in agriculture. Twenty-one cities are likely to run out of groundwater by 2020, despite increasing demand, as per the report.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Kerala government failed to use dams for flood control: Amicus curiae informs high court

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

CWC data shows water storage in major river basins depleting

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Healthy forests are necessary for healthy rivers and prosperous communities that depend on the river, say experts.

Odisha is home to 11 major rivers of which many are interstate rivers such as the Mahanadi. As climate change makes extreme rainfall events more frequent in the state, there is an urgent need to better manage the rivers and their basins. Most of these rivers are faced with conflicts arising from issues of flood control, sharing water and hydropower, diversion of water for industries and flood control. These problems are frequently aggravated by the unforeseen consequences of continual human interference in the river basins.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Multilayered governance and involvement of forest dwellers in the decision making processes can go a long way in managing our forests better.

The recent news on the forced eviction of more than 1,000,000 tribal and other forest-dwelling households from 16 states by a Supreme Court order has again brought the long-debated issue of the role of the state and the community in forest governance to the forefront.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Lower Subansiri hydel project: SC seeks review of NGT's order granting nod to the project

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Activists seek President, PM intervention to protect mangrove trees in Maharashtra

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Development and Displacement