Goi Project: A Critique

1. Project Profile:

The Goi dam is to be constructed at village Panchpula of district Badwani, Madhya Pradesh across the river Goi - a tributary of the Narmada This dam is one of the 30 major dams being built in the Narmada Valley as part of the controversial Narmada Valley Development.

The dam will have a full reservoir level (FRL) of 298m and a maximum water level (MWL) of 298.6m. The length of the right bank main canal will be 41.4 km and the distributary on the left will be 8 kms long.

The command area of the Project lies in 51 villages of Rajpur, Badwani and Thikri tehsils of district Badwani. The area proposed to be irrigated is 13,760 ha. (CCA of 17,265 ha.) with annual irrigation going upto 17,888 ha. The command of the Goi dam is the sub-basin of the Deb and Nahali rivers.

The Project is also intended to serve the domestic consumption of  Rajpur town.

According to the Detailed Project Report (Nov. 1991) submergence due to the Goi reservoir will be 1090 ha. in 9 villages of which 506 ha. is cultivable land. As per the DPR, 409 families will be affected by Project. All the affected families are Bhilala tribals.

In 1972, the anticipated Project cost was Rs.678 lakhs. In 1991, this increased to 980.9 lakhs. This is likely to increase even further. The status of the Project is that it has gone for clearance to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Planning Commission, Central Water Commission and for administrative approval from the state government.

2. Displacement and Rehabilitation:

2.1 According to the 1991 DPR, a total of 1090 ha. of land will submerge in the Goi reservoir of which 506 ha. is cultivable, and 2035 people of 409 families in 9 villages would be affected. Clearly, by now the population figures will have gone up even further.

The DPR does not present any socio-economic picture of those to be submerged. However, we do know that the submergence zone is almost entirely tribal comprising of Bhil and  Bhilala populations. We also  know that today the submergence zone is intensively irrigated . For example, village South Panchpula alone has 95 irrigation pumps.

The DPR mentions that a survey of the affected area revealed that the Project affected people desired land-based rehabilitation. The NWDT Award and the MP policy for the rehabilitation of Narmada oustees also clearly mention the land-for-land principle. Yet, the DPR after mentioning  the need for land-based rehabilitation does not mention or detail the availability of any land for R&R. In fact, it goes on to talk about cash compensation - mentioning around Rs.6000 per acre for unirrigated land and Rs.15,000 per acre for irrigated land, a pittance compared to actual land prices.

Clearly, although ritual mouthing of rehabilitation principles has taken place, there is no planning or provision for land based rehabilitation. Even the cash compensation is so minuscule, that the affected families can never hope to purchase land or replace their assets.

2.2 Where will the canal affected populations go?

530 ha. of land will be submerged under the canals of the Lower Goi dam. Of this 260 ha. is irrigated land under cultivation with an assessment of 70 Kuccha and 45 pucca wells.

These lands too will be merely acquired and compensated for in cash. The Rehabilitation Policy of the GoMP for the oustees of the Narmada Projects clearly states that any family whose land (over 25%) or livelihood is required for the Project for any purpose will be regarded as a Project Affected Family (PAF) with full entitlements. Yet even the accounting for populations and categories who are entitled to rehabilitation has not taken place, let alone complete rehabilitation plan!

Over and above these lands which will be undergoing submergence through canals, 10 ha. of land will be acquired for the colony and 480 ha. of land will be acquired for other temporary purposes.

2.3               Submergence vs. Irrigation

So let us set the submergence figures against those of the Command.

Irrigated land (CCA) (in ha.)

Acquired land required for the Project (in ha.)












Therefore, if we take all the lands to be acquired and used by the Project and compare it with the CCA, we find that the percentage is about 15% - much higher than the allowed 10%.


3.1          Over-lap and duplication: A dam in the Search of a Command

The Command area of the Lower Goi extends over 51 villages. The DPR clearly says that “the command area of the Lower Goi is thus restricted by the NSP Command” and “The command on the right flank is restricted by the Indira Sagar Project flow canal”.

These statements clearly reveal the reality that there is much overlap between the Goi and Narmada Sagar command areas. The DPR makes no attempt to explain why this duplication exists, i.e., villages which could be irrigated by the ISP are being irrigated by Goi.

In fact, it seems that the main reason for the conception of the Goi Project is to make a structure to impound flows at 75% dependability so that a total of 18.8 MAF (MP’s share) can be impounded.

The DPR mentions that “Efforts have been made to utilise the available 75% dependable waters. The FRL corresponding to this comes to RL 298m and live capacity comes to 96.96 MCM”. At other places, the live capacity is mentioned as 102.34 MCM.

The truth is that the erection of this live storage along with dead storage is mainly aimed at impounding water There is no command area available to justify this impoundment.

An Already Developed Command: Yet another duplication

The 1991 DPR mentions that the state of the command area was thus in 1991

Irrigation by source in 1991 (DPR 1991)

Irrigation from tanks and lift schemes

1291 ha.

Irrigation from pumps on wells

1702 ha.

Proposed irrigation in 1991

751 ha.


3744 ha.

Thus, even way back in 1991, 28% of the CCA was already irrigated or was immediately proposed for irrigation.

The situation today is even more piquant. Information for 46 villages (out of 51) of the command collected for the year 1996-’97 from revenue officials show that the percentage of irrigation in the CCA of these 46 villages is over 83%! (9777 ha. out of 11,753.59 ha. thus excluding the command of 5 villages for which data could not be collected).

It is important to note that these figures do not include the irrigation based on ground water markets in this area. However, even without that, a 83% achieved irrigation certainly interrogates the very need for the Goi dam.

It is thus clear that because of the over-lap with the ISP command on one hand on one hand and  the of  already achieved high percentages of irrigation on the other, the Lower Goi Project has become both irrelevant and unnecessary.

3.3          Will all these lands stand irrigation?

It is widely known that all lands are not amenable to irrigation and certainly not to flow irrigation. Soil type and depth and texture, alkacity and calcium content and the PH of water are some of the aspects that determine the irrigability of lands.

The soil survey of the Goi Command as in the DPR tells us the following:

Category - I

Suitable for sustained use under irrigation

141.225 ha.


Category - II

Moderate limitation for sustained use under irrigation

4679.225 ha.


Category - III

Severe limitations for sustained use under irrigation

3035.396 ha.


Category - IV

Marginal for use under irrigation

8742.769 ha.


Category - V

Unsuitable for use under irrigation

1205.125 ha.


Other lands

1026.275 ha.



18,830.010 ha.

It is clear from the above that it is only lands of categories I, II and the part of Category III (that does not have the combined limitations of soil depth and topography) which are suitable for irrigation only upto a very maximum of 8000 ha.

However, since we do not have details of Category III, even if we include Category I & II and the entire category III, we still reach a very maximum of 8000 ha. which will be able to use and absorb flow irrigation - a little over ½ of the command envisaged by the Project authorities. To provide flow irrigation to any of the Category IV lands would go against all tenets of sustainability and ruin these lands forever.

3.4               Additional irrigation needs: The emerging picture

The Goi project has a CCA of 15,760 ha. The irrigated area in 46 out of 51 villages is 9777 ha. (out of 11,753 ha. CCA in these 46 villages)

That is a maximum of 8000 ha. should have been prudently irrigated, yet more than 10,000 ha. is already irrigated!!

Now even if we were to insist on irrigating the entire command of 15,760 ha. by imprudently and unwisely including the totally unsuitable lands of categories IV, it would mean having to irrigate only another 2500 ha., as against the 2100 ha. for reservoir and other Project purposes. Will the project be worth it at all?

4.            Benefit-Cost

According to the 1991 DPR the benefit-cost ratio of this Project at 10% rate of interest is 0.99. This is when all resources costs and impacts of the submergence area have not been estimated in full. Now only an additional 2500 ha. requires  to be irrigated, it is clear that all benefit-cost ratios will become completely confounded!

5.               Alternatives

The above assessment of the command reveals that it is already highly irrigated. Yet development of the Comand is still necessary. How will it be done?

An assessment of the internal structure of irrigation in the Goi command reveals that following:

Irrigation by source in Goi command (1996-’97 data from revenue sources)

No. of wells

Irrigation from wells

No. of tanks

Irrigation from tanks

Irrigation from rivers/


Total Irrigation


7398.15 ha.


596.04 ha.

1585.66 ha.

9777.74 ha.

Percentage (%) of Irrigation

from wells






Average irrigation per well = 1.81 ha./well

  • irrigation from tanks is only 596.04 ha. against a total available capacity of 2901 ha. It is clear that around 2100 ha. of land can be further serviced by the better use of tanks.

Thus 75% of irrigation in the area is from wells - revealing a more than optimum use of ground water

The alternatives are thus clear:-

Firstly, do a public and participatory audit of the existing tanks in the area along with the community and with the government officials. This should lead to an identification of the problems with individual tanks and generate strategies for full  use. Our first attempt must be to unlock and use the 2100 ha. irrigation potential locked up in the under utilisation of existing tanks.

Secondly, we must invest in further tanks especially on the ridges and in the foot hills so that surface storages keep ground-water levels replenished and constant, as well as be available for direct use.

Similarly, water-shed management work, bunding, creation of check dams and stop dams on streams and rivulets need to be done urgently. These will store water which can be used for lift irrigation conserve soil and moisture in situ which can lead to greater productivity and production of rabi crops even without surface irrigation. This is especially important because around 7000 ha. of the CCA is not sustainable for surface irrigation according to the soil survey in the DPR and a combination of measures under watershed management is the only answer for enhanced productivity in this area.

Thirdly, ground water use and development needs to be regulated to meet the objectives of sustainability and equity. Similarly all means of augmenting ground water resources must be explored.

Fourthly, newer lift irrigation schemes need to be encouraged on the basis of the water made available by the creation of stop-dams and watershed measures leading to perennialization of and storage along rivers Deb and Nahali and other streams. This include public lift irrigation schemes which guarantee access to the resource poor.

The use of exogenous water, if needed, after the full development of local water resources has taken place, can be taken by the use of lift from the Narmada in a manner not requiring impoundment and submergence.

The Goi Project has not received its clearances yet. This is the time when an alternative approach to the Goi project and the needs of the command area, based on the above framework of suggestions can be worked out.