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AUG 03 1999 EDITORIAL Donít stop it .... : The Economic Times Online - India's No.1 Business Newspaper - Companies, Industry, Economy,Politics
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Editorial

Donít stop it ....


What is worrisome about the renewed opposition to the Sardar Sarovar project is not the opposition per se. But the fact that far from being a reasoned opposition to the Narmada dam, the ``rally for the valley,íí has become an extremely emotive issue. One in which Booker prize winning literary skills have whipped up an emotional frenzy that leaves little room for reasoned arguments on costs and benefits. Little wonder then that those protesting against the dam do not restrict their opposition to just the Sardar Sarovar project, but all big dams, past, present and future. This is a position that is difficult to accept.
Big dams, like all other projects, must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Nor must it be forgotten that if displacement is the ``humaníí cost of such projects, the benefits they confer are equally a human benefit. After all, the beneficiaries of such dams are no less human than those who are displaced. The role of the Bhakra Nangal dam in making Punjab the granary of India is a case in point.
This is not to suggest that the cost-benefit analysis must be a mere numbers game in which all that is required is to prove that the number of beneficiaries exceeds the number of losers. On the contrary, it must be ensured that those being displaced do not lose out entirely either. However, when evaluating the costs and benefits to them, it must be kept in mind that in addition to whatever direct compensation they are offered for being displaced, they would also ultimately benefit from the prosperity that such projects have historically bestowed upon entire regions.
This is the rationale behind such projects, not only in India, but elsewhere as well. The Three Gorges dam in China, for instance, is slated to displace many times the number being displaced by the Narmada dam. If, however, the agitators feel that the compensation being offered is inadequate, they must fight for a better package. However, to start from the assumption that nothing can compensate for displacement is to adopt an inherently antidevelopmental posture.
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