own set of problems, especially related to the villagers living inside the newly declared area. People of the 104 villages in the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary asserted in 1993 that they will not move out. Are the social costs of the project to be increased by forcing them to leave too?
Moreover, the justification for such 'compensatory' measures is that it is acceptable to sacrifice some forest and wildlife in one region, so long as forest and wildlife in another area are given protection. In a situation where India has already lost most of its forest and wildlife, it is worth asking whether such trade-offs are still acceptable.
Other possibilities being considered are to relocate certain wild animals, collect and put into botanical gardens certain "important" plants, and create conditions for the terrestrial wildlife to migrate to adjoining forests (NCA 1993). There are virtually no successfull cases of this having been done in India on any large scale: the expertise and experience simply does not exist. What is most critical, however, is that none of the measures, suggested will be of use for a majority of the smaller animal species and almost all plant species (which, in official parlance, are not even considered wildlife).
There will thus be the inevitable loss of the majority of wildlife if the project comes through, and this is likely to remain a major unquantified environmental cost. The loss has already begun with clearfelling, and with the submergence of land in the 1993 and 1994 monsoons. We still await workplans.
Aquatic habitat and biological diversity
Summary: The upstream aquatic ecosystem will be seriously disrupted by the dam, though the full impacts are not yet possible to predict. At least one threatened species, the Marsh crocodile, could be affected. Ameliorative measures being planned focus almost exclusively on commercially useful fish, ignoring all the other aquatic fauna and flora. As in the case of terrestrial wildlife, there is likely to be a loss of the area's wildlife which cannot be compensated in any way.
A dam changes a river ecosystem into a lake, with attendant changes in flora and fauna composition. The Narmada is known to be one of India's least polluted and disturbed major rivers, as also one of its oldest, and is therefore likely to have a large diversity of aquatic life. Unfortunately, till date no comprehensive list of this diversity is available.
The project authorities claim that "none of the aquatic fauna of the Narmada is listed as rare or threatened in the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List." This is not true. The Freshwater or Marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), listed as globally threatened in the IUCN Red Data Book, and considered threatened within India as well, is found in the area. One of us has seen it in the submergence zone of SSP, and villagers along the river's banks report frequent sightings.