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SARDAR SAROVAR
THE MAHESHWAR DAM
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BENEFITS OF THE SSP : A CRITICAL ANALYSIS



Introduction

The controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is one of the largest and most expensive multipurpose river projects ever to be initiated in India. It is claimed that the project will irrigate 1.8 million hectares (ha) of land, supply drinking water to 40 million people and will have an installed capacity of 1,450 MW of power over the next 30 years [Raj 1992:11]. However, the SSP has been opposed by local people and other groups all over the world who describe it as "the world's largest planned ecological disaster". This assertion is based on several findings arising out of a careful study of the entire project. The major problems are : about 1,000,000 people will be displaced and affected by direct submergence, building of canals, weirs dykes and the project colony, by catchment area treatment and compensatory afforestation, by expansion of the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary and due to secondary displacement and downstream effects; it is likely that waterlogging and salinisation will occur all over the command area; several basic errors and flawed assumptions mar the project plan; the distribution of benefits completely fails to address issues of social justice and equity; by all indications, the project will not be able to meet a large fraction of its targets.

Recently people of the Kutch and Saurashtra, who are supposed to be the main beneficiaries of the SSP, have also started questioning the Government claims about the benefits of the project. It has become increasingly clear to them that the SSP will not solve their problem of drought, and indeed, by spending vast quantities of money in their name, the Government is denying them the resources to develop alternative methods for dealing with water shortages in the area.

Over the last seven years, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has marshalled facts and expertise to critically analyse the SSP. The NBA consists of people of the Narmada Valley and their supporters all over India. After carefully studying every aspect of the SSP from displacement to rehabilitation to the planning of the dam structure, the canal system and its environmental and social impacts, the NBA has decided to oppose the project in its entirety.

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