All these costs add up to over Rs 2000 crores. And this is only the base cost. Adding price and physical contingencies usually more than doubles the cost: the World Bank estimated the base cost of the SSP as Rs 6264 crores and the total cost at Rs 13,640 crores in 1995 ( WB 1985). Using similar ratios, the cost of environmental mitigative and ameliorative measures could rise to over Rs 4300 crores! The cost of the SSP excluding environment and rehabilitation costs is already projected to be well over Rs 20,000 crores ( Ram 1993). Add the "environment" costs, and the financial burden of the SSP becomes truly unbearable. In such a situation, and given the current financial crunch faced by the project, we wonder whether most of the environmental mitigative measures will ever be undertaken for the SSP. This is specially true for the drainage measures: if total drainage costs alone are over Rs. 3600 crores, it is more than likely that drainage will simply be ignored over most of the command, as has been done in so many projects all over India. This would have very serious consequences in terms of waterlogging and salinisation over large parts of the SSP command.
The SSP, in a sense, is a victim of changing standards and perceptions. Almost all earlier mega-projects in India blithely ignored social and environmental costs. When the SSP was planned, it was perhaps 'natural' for the project authorities to concentrate exclusively on technical parameters and wish away environmental and social drawbacks with facile statements about "environmental enhancement" and "chance for tribals to enter the mainstream of development". However, the proven ill-effects of mega-projects have now become too compelling to ignore, and the attention paid to them by both the national and global community has forced even insensitive international lending agencies like the World Bank to do some serious rethinking, and to impose environmental and social conditions on funding.
Consequently, the SSP can boast about the largest number of environmental studies ever conducted for a mega-dam project in India. This does not mean that these studies comprise that essential requirement: a comprehensive EIA. Nor must it be thought that project authorities conducted these studies willingly; they had to be forced into them by public pressure and donor insistence. In other words, the Government still has not internalized the fact that comprehensive environmental studies are not irritating asides, but are essential to carry out sustainable development projects.
The conditional environmental clearance granted to the SSP has been in repeated violation for the last five years, and the SSP is progressing as an illegal project. A whole range of environmental impacts remains unstudied to date, and the project has the very real capacity to render thousands of hectares infertile due to waterlogging and salinisation, turn the lower reaches of Narmada into a saline stream, and permanently damage fragile and unique ecosystems in Kutch and Saurashtra. The convenient and ineffective pari passu clause has