NBA Press Note

November 25, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar,
Dt.Khargone, M.P.
Telefax: 07290-22464
E-mail: nobigdam@vsnl.com

WORLD COMMISSION OF DAMS CRITIQUES LARGE DAMS

Narmada Andolan to initiate legal proceedings against defamatory advertisements

The report of the World Commission for Dams recently released in London has once more raised sharp and grave questions about the utility of large dams worldwide. According to the report, while on one hand the envisaged benefits of large dams could not be realised fully, on the other hand, these dams have had serious social, economic and environmental impacts. The World Commission of Dams has recommended that the benefits of these Projects be re-evaluated and all options to these large dams that can provide water and energy should be assessed with the participation of all the stakeholders. It has pointed out that contrary to accepted belief the reservoirs of large dams emit green house gases and are as damaging to the environment as thermal Projects. Thus the myth of "environmentally friendly" hydel power has been broken. The WCD report has recommended that no dams should be built without the consent or the acceptance of the affected people. The report has made several adverse comments about the Narmada dams in its report.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan demands that the Government of India should accept the conclusions and recommendations of the World Commision of Dams report. It calls for a complete moratorium on all big dams in India including the Sardar Sarovar, Maheshwar, Narmada Sagar and other large dams. It asks that reparations should be given to those millions of people already affected since independence but not rehabilitated, and that all alternatives to large dams be carefully examined and implemented.

In 1997 April, the World Bank, dam building and power equipment manufacturing agencies and critics of large dams all over the world came together to create the World Commission of Dams. The 11 member team of Commissioners included both proponents of large dams such as Goran Lindahl, Ex-CEO of Asia Brown Boveri and Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.The government of India and the Narmada Bachao Andolan were both part of this forum.It was on the 16th of November that the report of the World Commission of Dams was formally launched in London.

The WCD report comes to the following conclusions ;

  • large dams have failed to produce as much electricity ,provide as much water ,or control as much flood damage as their sponsors claim;
  • large dams suffer massive cost over-runs and time delays ;
  • many large dams have proved to be uneconomic ,even before accounting for their social and environmental costs;
  • better technologies are available to provide the benefits claimed for large dams;
  • large dams have had huge social and environmental impacts , and efforts to mitigate these impacts have been largely unsuccessful;
  • reservoirs can be significant emitters of green house gases;
  • the benefits of large dams have largely gone to the already well-off while poorer sectors of the society have borne the costs.

These findings have led the WCD to make a number of important recommendations which apply to the full spectrum of dams -from existing dams to those under construction or in their planning stages. The WCD recommends that :

  • comprehensive and participatory assessments of the needs to be met and different options for meeting these needs should be developed before detailed studies are done on any specific Project;
  • priorities should be given to demand side management measures and optimising the performance of existing infrastructure before building any new Project as;
  • no dam should be built with out the "consent" (in the case of indigenous and tribal peoples) or "acceptance" of the affected people;
  • periodic participatory reviews should be done for existing dams to assess issues including dam safety, and the possibility of dam de-commissioning;
  • mechanisms should be developed to provide social reparation for those who are suffering the impacts of dams, and to restore damaged eco-systems.

In this context, the recently released news report of the India Abroad News Service claiming that the WCD report has supported the large dams on the Narmada and published in papers such as the Dainik Jagran is completely false and concocted .On the contrary, the WCD has made many sharp comments on the Narmada dams.(Pages 19,104,105,108,114,115,172). In fact the India Country study of the WCD has come to damning conclusions. According to the India Country study,since Independence, two thirds of the total water resources budget of India was devoted to large dams .5.6 crore people in this country have been displaced by these large dams and 50 lakh hectares of land and forests have been submerged . Despite giving such a large cost for these dams only 10% of the increase in food production can be attributed to large dams.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan reiterates its demand that the state and Central governments should accept the recommendations of the World Commission of Dams.It calls on the government to put a moratorium on the construction of all large dams, provide reparations to those already displaced and implement the water and energy alternatives.

It may also be noted that the false and malicious propaganda of the dam building agencies has been stepped up in the recent days; witness defamatory advertisements in the Indian Express and the Dainik Bhaskar by an hitherto unknown organisation - the National Council Of Civil Liberties(NCCL)defaming Medha Patkar, Chittaroopa Palit and the Narmada Bachao Andolan. It may be noted that the large part of the Sardar Sarovar has been funded by the World Bank and 80% of the funding of the Maheshwar Project has been envisaged from foreign sources. In this context, to accuse the NBA of colluding with foreign interests is simply and completely false.

The NBA has never given any documents sensitive to national security to any foreign interest. On the other hand it is committed to bringing issues like the high cost of power of the Maheshwar Project and the lack of rehabilitation into public debate nationally and internationally. It is also preposterous to state that the NBA has been funded by Hawala transactions. In this regard, the NBA has sent notices to the NCCL -and is filing a criminal defamatory case against the Indian Express and the NCCL.The Andolan would also like to know who funded the expensive half page advertisements . It has been noted in the newspaper that the space was donated by a "patriot". The Andolan hopes that the name of the "patriot" is not Siemens or ABB or any other utility which has an interest that large dams should be continued to be built.

Chittaroopa Palit
Alok Agarwal
Khumansingh Patel