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 

  • The last month has been one of great activity around the illegal construction of the Kanhar dam in Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh. In the two episodes of firing on peacefully protesting adivasi dalits, the Uttar Pradesh government violated the constitutional and democratic rights which are the...
    chicuposted 5 years 3 months agoread more
  • Delhites to bear the brunt of Yamuna pollution Based on the ‘Polluters Pay Principle’, the National Green Tribunal has ordered the various authorities in Delhi to levy environmental compensation on every household which generates sewage that goes into theYamuna, in the National Capita...
    Swati Bansalposted 5 years 3 months agoread more
  • “The Dalits of this country get access to water on the goodwill of the dominant caste. Water to untouchables is still miles away,” says Goldy M George, a Dalit activist and an expert on Dalit rights. Caste-based discrimination still persistsin India many years after independence, and access to ...
    makarandpurohitposted 5 years 6 months agoread more
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic waste dumped into world's oceans in 2010: Study A study published in the journal 'Science' has revealed that nearly eight million tonnes of plastic waste was dumped into the world's oceans in 2010. Plastic littering and mismanaged plastic waste systems are prime causes f...
    Swati Bansalposted 5 years 6 months agoread more
  • Mahashtra scraps state's River Regulation Zone policy The Mahashtra Government has decided to scrap the state's River Regulation Zone policy, which declared areas within two kilometres of high flood lines on either side of a river as 'no development zones'. As per the Government, the policy wa...
    Swati Bansalposted 5 years 7 months agoread more
  • Activists say that the villagers were informed late for the public hearing of the Ken-Betwa river link According to activists, officials did not follow correct procedures for the public hearing of the Ken-Betwa river link. No Environment Impact Assessment report was uploaded on the state's website ...
    Swati Bansalposted 5 years 7 months agoread more
  • A consortium of the seven Indian Institutes of Technology has been formed and charged with the preparation of a basin-wide management plan to restore the Ganga. What have they proposed for the river? In an exclusive interview with the India Water Portal, Dr. Tare explained the IIT consortium's visi...
    chicuposted 5 years 7 months agoread more
  • Latha Anantha of the Chalakudy Puzha Samrakshana Samiti (Chalakudy River Protection Forum) was awarded the Bhagirath Prayas Samman at the recently concluded India Rivers Week for her commendable work on safeguarding the integrity of the Chalakudy river in Kerala. “She has combined sound research w...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 5 years 8 months agoread more
  • The essence of a river is its ebb and flow but won't taming of the fresh free-flowing rivers by building massive dams pose a threat to our rivers and the communities that live by them?  Participants from different parts of the country who congregated at the first ever India Rivers Week held at...
    Amita Bhaduriposted 5 years 8 months agoread more
  • The Koel Karo Jan Sanghatana was awarded the first Bhagirath Award during the India Rivers Week 2014 for protecting the Koel and the Karo rivers. That this is not an organisation that many people have heard of is a shame. The struggle that this organisation has faced against the Koel Karo dam i...
    chicuposted 5 years 9 months agoread more
  • Nature and wildlife can be better conserved if local communities are duly educated and motivated. Nearly 70 km south of Bhubaneswar, the Mangalajodi village on the edge of Chilka lake, Asia’s largest brackish water lagoon, is a testimony to that argument. About 25 villagers, many of whom were onc...
    makarandpurohitposted 5 years 9 months agoread more
  • "The agricultural production in our region has deteriorated due to pollution. Haphazard mining has lead to serious drinking water problems in the area", says Indar Bilas Shah, a 56- year old resident of Obada village, Lakhanpur block in Jharsuguda, Odisha. He's not the only one. Thousands of village...
    makarandpurohitposted 5 years 11 months agoread more
  • Cheyyur, a town 100 km from Chennai in Kanchipuram, has been identified as the site for a 4000 MW Ultra Mega Power Plant (UMPP) by the Government of Tamil Nadu. Ultra Mega Power Projects are a series of ambitious power projects planned by the Government of India where each UMPP is said to have ...
    Divya Nposted 5 years 11 months agoread more
  • Forest clearance granted to the proposed Renuka Dam The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has granted approval to the proposed Renuka dam project. The project, worth Rs 3,600 crore, requires 909 hectares of forest land in Himachal Prade...
    Swati Bansalposted 6 years 1 week agoread more
  • Heavy rain causes floods in Uttarakahand, Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Two days of incessant rains have severely affected Uttarkhand with the major rivers like Ganga, Nandakini and Pindar flowing above the danger level. In Uttar Pradesh, 28 people have been killed due to floods with nearly 1500 v...
    Swati Bansalposted 6 years 1 week agoread more
  • When Basanti Devi entered the village of Bachwadi in Uttarakhand's Takula block on one of her routine visits, she knew that something was wrong. Instead of the normal hustle, groups of men stood about talking quietly. She asked them what the matter was. Basanti and the Gram PanchayatBasanti Devi wa...
    chicuposted 6 years 2 weeks agoread more
  • It is difficult to make small talk with a woman who has lost her all. Khair-un-Nissa had generously invited me to her home for a meal, a curry made of the famously succulent Black Haringhata hen, no less. The curry was special but it was her house that impressed me most. The bamboo and straw struct...
    chicuposted 6 years 3 weeks agoread more
  • Sukhomajri village has long been a reminder of people's participation in ecological preservation and in turn, greater economic good. The small village in Panchkula district of Haryana changed its fortunes when it entered into joint forest management with the help of the Chandigarh-based Central So...
    Manu Moudgilposted 6 years 1 month agoread more
  • Parliament passes the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill Parliament has approved the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation (Amendment) Bill on laying down the multi-purpose Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh. The Government has also assured the taking up of all adequate steps to reh...
    Swati Bansalposted 6 years 1 month agoread more
  • I could just about see a small makeshift shelter with a yellow canopy. As I made my way through the small stream and climbed uphill, I saw a JCB machine trying to clear a path. Further up the road, female voices speaking the local dialect started to emerge. A small hearth surrounded by utensils and ...
    Manu Moudgilposted 6 years 1 month agoread more

Pages

Policy matters this week

PM Modi inaugurates the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

No wetlands have been notified in Delhi-NCR since the wetlands rules were brought out in 2010. Meanwhile, draft wetlands rules are set to decentralise its management to states.

In the afternoons these days, Basai wears a deserted look. Known as a bird’s delight and privileged by the protected status of a national park, the wetland is located just eight kilometres from Sultanpur bird sanctuary in Gurugram in Haryana. No birds can be spotted foraging the soil of the Basai wetland or its waters. “Till a few years ago, the area was host to a constantly changing cast of wetland birds.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Nitin Gadkari takes charge of water resources and Ganga rejuvenation

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Policy matters this week

Public hearing for Pancheshwar dam continues while ignoring people's concern

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

East Kolkata Wetlands that provides many ecosystem services needs to be preserved to meet the SDGs and to mitigate the effect of global warming.

Increasingly in both academic and social sectors, sustainable development goals (SDGs) are being quoted often and set as targets. Coming close on the heels of the marginal success of millennium development goals or MDGs with its target as 2015, SDGs were set by the United Nations to be fulfilled by 2030. 

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

While large projects offered more bang for India's buck at the time of independence, the idea hasn't evolved over time affecting the sustainability of natural resources.

In the early half of the last century, two people in love with each other worked in their own separate ways to create the India of their dreams. Venkapaiyya worked in the district court at Kasargod, Kerala eventually retiring a few years before India became independent and spent his days administering the laws of British India. Rukmini was a satyagrahi who marched for India's freedom from the “alien” laws that were established by the colonial government.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

News this week

Groundwater rules might get relaxed

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Various push and pull factors of urbanisation are driving the farmers in peri-urban Hyderabad out of their fields.

A dominant characteristic of a peri-urban site is its transition out of an agrarian economy due to industrialisation and urbanisation. This usually manifests in the form of agricultural land either left barren or sold for developmental activities and farmers and agricultural labourers looking for an alternative source of livelihood. One of our study villages, Mallampet presents a case in point.

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

The flood in the Kashmir valley in 2015 was the result of the destruction of wetlands. A video tells us what we can do to save the valley.

The devastating flood in 2015 in the Kashmir valley affected more than 2.5 lakh houses and displaced about 5.5 lakh people. The economic loss was massive.  

Many researchers and experts believe that careful conservation and protection of the lakes, ponds and wetlands in the Kashmir valley could have reduced the scale of the devastation to a large extent. 

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

The redeveloped ecosystem of the Yamuna biodiversity park is what a polluted city like Delhi needs.

It’s July now and the temperature is slowly dipping in Delhi. Only a few migratory birds wintered at the Yamuna biodiversity park remain. Others have left for Central Asia and Siberia. Some species of summer terrestrial migrants are expected to arrive while some others can be seen enjoying the park’s wetlands. “Red-crested pochard, a magnificent bird with a red head and an orange beak, has left,” says Sameer Gautam, an education officer at the park and an avid ornithologist.

Attachments

Topics

Sub-Categories

Regions

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Development and Displacement