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 

  • In popular imagination, steeped in consumer culture, the hills are exotic and aesthetically sublime places to find solace away from busy urban life. This kind of imagination conveniently ignores and de-contextualizes the hills and the problems they face today. The Himalayas, often known as the Water...
    priyadposted 4 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Cabinet approves Dibang hydel project in Arunachal Pradesh The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved Rs. 1,600 crore pre-investment and clearance expenditure for the 2,880 megawatts Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. The project, which is worth Rs 28,080 crores in t...
    swatiposted 4 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Large dams, back in the game? Recent years are seeing the re-emergence of large dams as sources of hydropower generation in global development policy. Large dams are being propagated as clean, green, climate-mitigating and a major source of renewable energy in emerging markets in the Global South. ...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 4 months 3 weeks agoread more
  • Government cuts budget for Jal Shakti Ministry by 9.4 percent; increases funds for rural drinking water mission  In the 2019 Budget, the Centre reduced the allocation for the water ministry from Rs 8,860 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 8,245 crore for the Department of Water Resources, River Devel...
    swatiposted 5 months 3 days agoread more
  • Centre launches Jal Shakti Abhiyan To tackle the water crisis looming the country, the Centre launched the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, a water conservation campaign focussing on 1,592 stressed blocks in 256 districts across the country. The Jal Shakti Abhiyan will focus on five key aspects - water cons...
    swatiposted 5 months 1 week agoread more
  • Managing natural resources, the sustainable way On the occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD 2019), India elaborated on its plans for managing its natural resources, undertaking sustainable land management and combatting droughts.  The highlighted actions are expected to help I...
    aarti kelkar kh...posted 5 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • Government to launch rural piped water scheme Taking note that more than 80 percent rural households in the country are yet to get piped water supply, the government plans to launch a new mission to ensure water from the tap for each house in villages in the next five years. Union Jal Shakti minist...
    swatiposted 5 months 3 weeks agoread more
  • Surya Ganga, a film directed by Valli Bindana takes an all embracing view of the energy sector, especially the social and environmental consequences of big energy projects in India. The film was released in India recently. The story begins with an inquisitive six-year-old girl along with her mother ...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 6 months 36 min agoread more
  • HC orders Haryana government to supply adequate water to Delhi and monitor Yamuna through live Google maps The Delhi High Court has ordered the Haryana government to ensure that adequate water is provided to Delhi and to monitor the Yamuna river through live Google mapping. The decision has come af...
    swatiposted 6 months 1 day agoread more
  • Mahakali, also known as Sharda in India, gushes through the hilly tracts of Nepal and Uttarakhand, collecting its water from the numerous streams it receives on the way. Like all rivers meandering through the lush terrains and forests of Uttarakhand, Mahakali too has become a cause of disagreement b...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 6 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • There is a pond in front of my house. The whole area is known by that pond and it also gets included in our address. Recently, the owner of the pond has started filling it with soil and also started construction of house on that pond. The whole area is facing the scarcity of water and it seems it wi...
    Anonymous (not verified)posted 6 months 2 weeks agoread more
  • 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 7 months 18 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 7 months 2 weeks 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 7 months 3 weeks 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 7 months 3 weeks 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 8 months 5 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 8 months 5 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 8 months 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 8 months 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 8 months 2 weeks agoread more

Pages

A dialogue that highlights the cultural essence of rivers

"River conversations are critical to re-evaluate histories, reconnect civilisations, cultures and peoples, ideas and regions and open streams of thought for a future with exciting possibilities," says Kishalay Bhattacharjee, Associate Professor and Vice Dean, Jindal School of Journalism and Communication who has conceptualized a new series of quarterly river conversations.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

While India has increased its target of restoring degraded land from 21 million ha to 26 million ha, what is the scale of the challenge and what do the new targets mean?

India finally announced that it would increase its targets of restoring degraded lands from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares[1]. This target comes on the heels of weeks of conjecture on the "big announcement" expected from the host country during the UNCCD COP14 meeting in Delhi.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Government identifies 100 wetlands for restoration in next five years

At the 14th session of the Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Environment Ministry identified more than 100 wetlands for restoration in the next five years to combat land degradation.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Sardar Sarovar dam fills up while ignoring thousands in submergence area

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Study highlights significant hydropower opportunities in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region.

Worldwide, the demand for energy has risen significantly and quickly, leading to serious impacts on environmental sustainability and hindering global efforts to mitigate climate change. Hydropower, a leading renewable option has the additional benefits of water storage for agriculture and other uses.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Mitul Baruah from Ashoka University narrates personal experiences of people affected by floods in Majuli, Assam.

Floods are an annual phenomenon in Assam. They are as integral to the state as the Brahmaputra River is, and each monsoon, we are reminded that Assam exists (or is drowning). As I write this piece, Assam is slowly recovering from the first wave of flood this monsoon.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Southwest monsoon claims 227 lives

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Magsaysay award winner & founder-editor of PARI, P Sainath analyses India's water scarcity, the agrarian crisis & farmer suicides, before asking: what can we do about it?

P Sainath has been documenting stories from rural India for over three decades now. He is the founder-editor of People's Archive of Rural India (PARI), a digital archive dedicated to people whose voices and stories don't always find space in mainstream media. Sainath previously covered the rural beat at The Hindu, and his on ground reportage has drawn significant attention to the country’s farmers and the challenges they face.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Government to 3D map aquifers in all villages

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Development and Displacement