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Most of the studies have been commissioned by the project authorities themselves, and several conducted by consultants or organisations whose biases are evident from their own statements (e.g. the example given above of the M.S. University). Several studies commissioned well after construction started, have only been asked to suggest ameliorative measures, rather than make critical studies reflecting on the environmental feasibility of the project. In addition, these studies are not made public till much after they are screened and edited by project authorities. In such a situation, and with finding fully under the control of then authorities, truly independent studies are difficult to expect (though not impossible).

In addition, no peer review of the process and methodology of these studies is carried out. A less than professional approach to studies is much easier to generate and encourage under an environment of secrecy where no public scrutiny is possible. While not wishing to cast any aspersions on any of the persons who have conducted the commissioned studies of SSP, we would frankly like to challenge the independent nature of some of these studies, due to the above-mentioned factors. This is, of course, not a problem restricted to SSP; other projects in other parts of the country might suffer from it in even greater intensity.

Project Costs Arising out of Environmental Aspects of SSP

Summary: Costs of ameliorative and mitigative measures for environmental impacts of the SSP could rise above Rs. 4300 crores. A vast majority of these costs have not been included in any cost-benefit appraisal of the project. Given the severe financial constraints of the SSP, it is highly probable that most ameliorative and mitigative measures will never be carried out. This is specially true for the drainage works, the lack of which could prove to be disastrous.

Costs of ameliorative and mitigative environmental measures for the SSP have been suggested by some (though by no means all) of the studies. They add to up to a very impressive total, most of which has simply not been considered when the cost-benefit analysis was undertaken. Catchment area treatment for only the critically erodable, directly draining, land is currently estimated to cost Rs 146.43 crores (ESG 18th Meeting Agenda Notes 1993), up from only Rs 2 crores estimated 30 years ago. Compensatory afforestation is currently estimated to cost Rs 72.57 crores (ESG 17th Meeting Agenda Notes). Cost of major drainage works only (excluding over 50 major bridges, countless minor bridges, and the substantial energy costs of pumping out groundwater), is estimated to cost Rs 1600 crores for Regions 5-13 ( CES 1992), and at least another Rs 200 crores for Regions 1-4 ( Core Consultants 1982). No cost estimates are available for fisheries development, health care, wood and vector control measures, downstream impact control measures, sanctuary protection, and other measures.

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