Sardar Sarovar dam

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


The project

Ten salient facts

Shraddha Jandial, September 17, 2017: India Today

1. Sardar Sarovar project is the biggest dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States.

2. The Sardar Sarovar Dam has two power houses - river bed power house and canal head powerhouse. The two powerhouses have the installed capacity of 1,200 MW and 250 MW respectively.

3. The dam has so far produced 4,141 crore units of electricity.

4. Sardar Sarovar Dam is also the most controversial development project of the nation. Activists have been long demanding that the filling of the reservoir with water be stopped immediately. They want the dam gates to be open to reduce the water level.

5. The gates of the dam were closed on July 17 to increase the height of the dam.

6. The permission for closing the gates was granted by the Narmada Control Authority after being convinced that rehabilitation of the people displaced due to the project was complete.

7. According to official figures, the dam has earned over Rs 16,000 crore. This means that the dam has already earned more than double the cost of its construction.

8. As per the arrangement, the power generated from the Sardar Sarovar Dam will be shared among Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. About 57 per cent of the electricity produced from the Sardar Sarovar Dam would go to Maharashtra while Madhya Pradesh will get 27 per cent and Gujarat 16 per cent.

9. The Narmada Bachao Andolan led by activist Medha Patkar has claimed that after raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, about 40,000 families in 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh will be displaced. The government has put the number of displaced families at 18,386 in Madhya Pradesh.

10. The foundation stone of the Sardar Sarovar Dam was laid by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961. The construction on the project began 26 years later in 1987, when his grandson Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

A brief history

A short history of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada, September 17, 2017: The Indian Express

The Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The foundation stone of the project was laid out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961.

The project which has been the subject of much controversy for decades now is reported to be one of the largest dams in the world. Having a length of 1.2 kms and a depth of 163 metres, the dam is expected to be shared among the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. “Four crore Gujaratis will get drinking water and 22,000 hectares of land will be irrigated,” claimed union minister Nitin Gadkari on the benefits of the project and added that the dam will help realise PM Modi’s dream of making poor farmers wealthy by 2022.

The Sardar Sarovar project was a vision of the first deputy prime minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The foundation stone of the project was laid out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961 after carrying out a study on the usage of the Narmada river water that flowed through the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and into the Arabian Sea. A project report prepared for the dam led to much dispute over the means of distributing the Narmada water among the three states- Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. As the negotiations bore no fruit, a Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) was created in 1969 to decide the fate of the project.

After having studied a large number of reports and studies made by the three states, the NWDT gave its verdict in 1979. Accordingly, the 35 billion cubic metres of water available for consumption from the dam, Madhya Pradesh would receive 65 percent, Gujarat 32 percent and Rajasthan and Maharashtra would be eligible for the remaining 3 percent. The Planning Commission finally approved the project in 1988.

As the planning of the project was on its way , though, it soon caught the attention of social activists who found that the dam did not meet the required environmental and social conditions as meted out by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. Foremost among those who raised voice against the project was Medha Patkar who first visited the site of the dam in 1985.

Narendra Modi, Sardar Sarovar project, Sardar Sarovar dam, Modi inaugurates Sardar Sarovar dam, Modi and Sardar Sarovar dam, Sardar Sarovar dam controversy, Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, India news, Indian Express Medha Patkar organised several mass protests and consolidated a movement against the project called the “Narmada Bachao Andolan” that went on to acquire international attention.

On realising that the project had received funding from the World Bank, despite it not being sanctioned by the Ministry of Environment, Medha Patkar organised several mass protests and consolidated a movement against the project called the “Narmada Bachao Andolan” that went on to acquire international attention.

While her motive was the complete stoppage of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, Patkar’s first target was the financing acquired by the project from the World Bank. She was not alone in raising a voice against the building of the dam. Other notable figures to have made a strong case of protest against the project were Baba Amte, Arundhati Roy and Aamir Khan.

The consistent struggle to dismantle the project built a huge amount of pressure on the World Bank and a bank commissioned panel was set up to review the project. On concluding the fact that inadequate assessment had been made by the Indian government and the World Bank prior to sanctioning the project, the government on March 31, 1993 cancelled the loan authorised by the World Bank.

After several years of much deliberation, however, the Supreme Court allowed the construction of the dam to proceed, provided it met with certain conditions. The foremost condition placed by the Court was that all those displaced by the increase in height of 5 metres be satisfactorily rehabilitated and that the process be repeated for every five metres increase in height.

Commenting on the benefits to be made from the project the Court said the following in its verdict:

“The project has the potential to feed as many as 20 million people, provide domestic and industrial water for about 30 million, employ about 1 million, and provide valuable peak electric power in an area with high unmet power demand (farm pumps often get only a few hours of power per day).”

Currently the height of the dam has been raised to 138.68 metres with a usable storage of 4.73 million acre feet of water. While inaugurating the dam, PM Modi performed Narmada aarti and offered prayers at the site. “There have been many who politicised the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. But we overcame all conspiracies against Maa Narmada to complete the Sardar Sarovar project,” he said as he emphasised the fact that that day would have been a matter of great pride to the man who had envisioned the Sardar Sarovar Dam: Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Some lesser known facts

17 Sep 2017: The Times of India

PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam on 17th September, which also happened to be his 67th birthday. Modi dedicated the day to the nation the Dam, whose foundation was laid nearly six decades ago by former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. The foundation stone was laid on April 5, 1961 and it took 56 years to complete its construction. The inaugural event will also see the finale of the fortnight-long Narmada Mahotsav, which was launched by Gujarat government to celebrate the completion of work.

Sardar Sarovar Dam is the second-biggest concrete gravity dam in the world, the biggest being Grand Coulee Dam in the United States. Sardar Sarovar Dam is going to help irrigate 800,000 hectares of land in the state and will furnish drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages. The canal will be used to irrigate parts of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

According a senior official involved with the project, the dam has minted Rs. 16,000 crore till date, which is double the money which was used to construct the dam. The plan for harnessing the river for irrigation and power generation was set up in 1946. India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of the project on April 4, 1961. The project was interrupted many times due to an interstate river water sharing dispute and protest against human and environmental implications it might have.

In 1985, social activist Medha Patkar along with other activist came forward and conducted a study of human and environmental implications of constructing this dam. They concluded that government undermined the environmental impact of the dam, as certain agricultural lands would be submerged. Millions would be displaced and there was no concrete rehabilitation program to put these people back to normalcy.

Several movements were launched against the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which came under the same umbrella ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’. Several popular faces like Arundhati Roy, Baba Amte, Aamir Khan, etc became the part of the movement. The proposed height of the dam was revised upward over the years by the government, despite facing resistance on the project. Supreme Court, lately, allowed it to increase the height by 17 metres.

According to the SSP, for one tribal displaced by the dam, seven will benefit. The project will not only generate electricity but will also affect environment positively. It will increase the tree plantation rate by 100 times and gains due to carbon dioxide fixation will be up to 70 times.

Projected benefits


The Sardar Sarovar Project will provide irrigation facilities to 18.45 lac ha. of land, covering 3112 villages of 73 talukas in 15 districts of Gujarat. It will also irrigate 2,46,000 ha. of land in the strategic desert districts of Barmer and Jallore in Rajasthan and 37,500 ha. in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra through lift. About 75% of the command area in Gujarat is drought prone while entire command in Rajasthan is drought prone. Assured water supply will soon make this area drought proof.

Drinking Water

A special allocation of 0.86 MAF of water has been made to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9633 villages (53% of total 18144 villages of Gujarat) within and out-side command in Gujarat for present population of 28 million and prospective population of over 40 million by the year 2021. All the villages and urban centres of arid region of Saurashtra and Kachchh and all "no source" villages and the villages affected by salinity and fluoride in North Gujarat will be benefited. Water supply requirement of several industries will also be met from the project giving a boost to all-round production


There are two power houses viz. River Bed Power House and Canal Head Power House with an installed capacity of 1200 MW and 250 MW respectively. The power would be shared by three states - Madhya Pradesh - 57%, Maharashtra - 27% and Gujarat 16%. This will provide a useful peaking power to western grid of the country which has very limited hydel power production at present. A series of micro hydel power stations are also planned on the branch canals where convenient falls are available.

Flood Protection

It will also provide flood protection to riverine reaches measuring 30,000 ha. covering 210 villages and Bharuch city and a population of 4.0 lac in Gujarat.

Wild Life

Wild life sanctuaries viz. "Shoolpaneshewar wild life sanctuary" on left Bank, Wild Ass Sanctuary in little Rann of Kachchh, Black Buck National Park at Velavadar, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Kachchh, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and Alia Bet at the mouth of River will be benefited.

Additional Production

SSP would generate electricity. On completion, annual additional agricultural production would be Rs. 1600 crores, power generation and water supply Rs. 175 crores, aggregating about Rs. 2175 crores every year equivalent to about Rs. 6.0 crores a day.

Benefits to small and marginal Scheduled Caste/ Scheduled Tribe farmers would be as under :

Other Benefits

Marginal farmers (< 1 ha.) 28.0 %

Small farmers (1 to 2 ha.) 24.4%

Scheduled Tribe 8.7%

Scheduled Caste 9.1%

Against one tribal displaced, 7 tribals would get benefits


In addition, there will be benefits of fisheries development, recreational facilities, water supply for industries, agro industrial development, protection of conserved forest from grazers and secondary benefits viz employment generation, increase in vegetal cover in 3.4 M. Ham. of GCA, gains due to compensatory forest, tree plantation 100 times and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) fixation to large extent by 70 times.

Objections to the dam; arguments in favour

The Narmada Bachao Andolan, 1986-2016

S G Vombatkere, Narmada Bachao Andolan: Thirty Years of Resistance and Reconstruction, 9 September 2016: Mainstream Weekly

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) marks 30 years of people’s resistance to dam-projects in the Narmada valley. An icon of non-violent grassroots protest against destructive development, the NBA’s peaceful efforts for equity and justice in the face of deliberate and severe provocation, make it a shining example of Gandhian ideals in an era of extreme corruption in morals and ethics.

Resisting Rape of an Ancient Valley

In the early 1980s, people of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the Narmada valley were shocked when the government began to construct 3000 small, 135 medium and 30 major dams and canals on the 1312-km long Narmada river, cradle of 5000 years of continuous civilisation and culture. Including two mega-dams—Narmada Sagar and Sardar Sarovar—it was supposed to irrigate two million hectares, feed 20 million people, provide drinking water for 30 million, employ one million and generate electric power for agriculture and industry.

The government was silent that the projects would inundate 37,000 ha of forest and agricultural land, affecting the lives and livelihoods of lakhs of forest-dwelling and farming adivasis and other rural families, and submerge ancient temples and towns, culturally and environmentally affecting not only the people of the Narmada valley but also the rest of India. The social costs of human displacement and loss of wildlife and forest were not a part of the crude (and perhaps manipulated) cost-benefit calculations. But perhaps social ill-effects were neglected because the project-affected families (PAFs) were predominantly adivasi and rural, and they really did not matter even decades after independence.

The State and Central governments were keen to obtain loans from the World Bank (WB) for large projects, and push them through, regardless of even basic considerations of feasibility. For example, the economic feasibility of dam-projects is primarily based on correct estimation of the total annual flow. Narmada’s total annual flow, as estimated by the Bradford Morse Committee [more below], was 17 per cent less than the project-design flow, indicating that the designed benefits could not be achieved and the cost-benefit calculations were wrong or falsified. These projects promised unsubstantiated benefits of irrigation or electric power to one section of people, at the cost of the land and livelihood of another section of people, while the immediate financial benefits went to the construction industry, administrator-engineer-politician nexus and of course lending financial institutions.

As the PAFs began to realise the impact of the 3000-plus projects, they began to question its bases. Assisted by social workers and activists, the social, financial and technical bases of the projects, and the viability of the whole scheme and of individual projects were questioned. The separate organisations coalesced into the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in 1985 under the leadership of Medha Patkar, supported notably by Baba Amte and B.D. Sharma, and later, Ramaswamy Iyer, S.C. Behar, L.C. Jain, Kuldip Nayar and Swami Agnivesh among others.

In 1985, the WB funded $ 450 million of the $ 6 billion (1970 estimate) project. But because of the NBA’s cogent critique of the socio-economic-technical-environmental assumptions and effects of the projects, and the march and non-violent demonstration by the PAFs to Ferkuwa on the MP-Gujarat border in December 1990, the WB reviewed its involvement in the projects. It formed an Independent Review Committee in 1991, under Bradford Morse, a respected former UNDP Administrator. The State and Central governments provided full cooperation to the Committee, possibly expecting it to provide support to counter the growing resistance offered by the NBA. But the Morse Report (1992) was critical of the government and of the projects in general [Note 1] and caused the WB to withdraw its financial involvement in 1993, damaging the credibility of the governments’ plans.

The governments refused to re-assess the projects as recommended by the Morse Report. Gujarat, the principal beneficiary of the projects, raised funds by issuing Sardar Sarovar Bonds in 1993, to fill the $ 450 million financial gap. [Note 2] But, coupled with people’s movements in Brazil (the Amazon Highway), Thailand (mining, dams and forestry) and Indonesia (forced displacement of two million people), the NBA’s well-argued resistance drew the attention of the international community.

Embarrassed by the worldwide outcry against the WB-funded “development” projects, the USA summoned WB officials before its Congress to explain their lending policy. Following this, in an implicit admission of destruction and injustice, the WB noted that sustained economic growth was not possible without sustainable environment and just treatment of people, and even made the borrower-nations’ preparation of National Environmental Action Plans conditional to providing development loans. [Note 3]

World Commission on Dams

Apart from the NBA’s organised resistance against large dams primarily for social justice, and its critique of large dams and their adverse economic-environmental effects, there were escalating controversies on large dams else-where. This prompted the creation of a World Commission on Dams (WCD) in May 1998, with Medha Patkar as a member—truly a landmark victory for the NBA.

The WCD was financed by the WB and ADB; governments of Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and USA; corporates ABB, Voith Siemens, Manitoba Hydro, Atlas Copco, Tractabel, Enron and Harza Engineering; and civil society organisations like World Wildlife Fund. This new model of funding, by 54 public, private and civil society organisations, relied on extensive public consultation through a forum of 68 members from 36 countries representing a cross-section of interests, views and institutions. The WCD was to review the development effectiveness of large dams to develop internationally acceptable criteria, guidelines and standards for the planning, design, appraisal, construction, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of large dams. Thus, the WCD Report was the product of an independent, international, multi-stakeholder body, including two corporate CEOs as members, genuinely reflecting the interests of diverse groups. The WCD’s the Final Report (titled “Dams and Development—A New Framework for Decision-making”) was released in November 2000 by Nelson Mandela. It incorporated five core values for decision-making concerning large dams, namely: Equity, Efficiency, Participatory Decision-making, Sustainability and Accoun-tability.

Facing Odds

The Government of India did not accept the WCD’s unexceptionable core value recommendations, and construction of large dams continued not only in the Narmada valley but all over India, with people in their thousands joining the ranks of the PAFs.

Continuing its resistance to large dams, the NBA also moved to reconstruct the lives of the PAFs to ensure their resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R), and moved courts of law against the State and Central governments’ malgovernance and their ignoring, circumventing or violating orders of High Courts and the Supreme Court of India. The NBA also questioned the governments’ model of development and right of eminent domain.

The NBA’s policy remains peaceful resistance to injustice and oppression (sangharsh) along with social reconstruction (navnirman). People’s movements from all over India have taken heart from the NBA’s successes, and increasingly question the governments’ power of eminent domain over land. However, corporate-owned print and electronic mainstream media give little coverage to such movements and struggles, but are quick to dub resistance to infrastructure projects (including dams) as “anti-development”.

Several agencies are available to the PAFs concerning their rights, demands and grievances: the Narmada Control Authority (NCA); the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA); the Local, High and Supreme Courts; Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs); State governments of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat; and the Central Government. These have mostly failed to deliver justice due to collusion amongst themselves.

The NBA has also shown that governments acquiring land in adivasi areas without prior, informed consent of the gram sabhas is a violation of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act. But it has had little effect because of the corrupt politician-bureaucratic nexus.

When the Supreme Court ordered equivalent land-for-land rehabilitation to the PAFs, the governments stated in court that there was no land available for the purpose, even while they create “land banks” for industrial use and give agricultural land for Special Economic Zones (SEZs). In Madhya Pradesh, the police and administration forced evacuation of adivasi villages in the submergence zone by sealing their hand pumps, demolishing buildings with bulldozers and clear-felling trees. All this illustrates the governments’ policy and attitude concerning people’s problems. But the NBA continues to expose the wrong-doings of the project authorities including monumental corruption at many levels.

Notwithstanding such gross injustices and police violence on peaceful demonstrators, and failure by all the three pillars of the Constitution to address development-induced “involuntary” displacement, the NBA has maintained non-violence as a strategic imperative.

Persistence in a Right Cause

Maoist violence is being understood as the extreme reaction of the people to economic and physical violence from forest, revenue and police officials, seen as the first-cause. State (police) violence is the response. The violence by both sides is indiscriminate and adversely affects large, uninvolved (mostly adivasi) populations caught in the cross-fire. Escalation of violence has resulted in raising specialist forces and launching ‘Operation Green Hunt’.

However, employing the moral force of Gandhian non-violence, the NBA has been able to make the governments recognise the peaceful struggles of people. Today, thanks to the NBA’s persistence over 30 years, and perhaps under-standing its principled stand, the governments do not use gun-violence as they do against the Maoists. However, due to the machinations of the politician-bureaucrat-corporate nexus, the governments persist in malgovernance with callousness, neglect and ignorance, with corruption as the major reason for the violence inflicted upon the PAFs.

Exposing corruption

With commendable perseverance, the NBA succeeded in presenting facts of endemic mismanagement and corruption in the R&R process before the Madhya Pradesh High Court which, in 2008, appointed a Commission under retired Justice S.S. Jha to investigate and report its findings. The Jha Commission, working for seven years, brought out its Report in January 2016. It has exposed many cases of fake registries that provide compensation to unentitled people while omitting entitled PAFs, indicating monu-mental, systemic corruption amounting to around Rs 1500 crores.

The PAFs demand that the Jha Commission Report be placed in the public domain to expose the humongous corruption, and also expose the rank criminality which has derailed the R&R process, denying them rightful compensation granted by the Supreme Court and violating their constitutional right to life. However, to protect the corrupt officials, the Madhya Pradesh Government has brought obstacles to placing the Jha Commission Report in the public domain, denying the PAFs the justice and relief which it would have provided.

People’s Voices

Apart from the Narmada valley, there are many ongoing or upcoming hot-spots of resistance against human-cum-environmental disaster countrywide. Demanding development without displacement and destruction, they are inspired by the success of the NBA’s 30-year-long efforts and the exemplary non-violent struggles of the Narmada PAFs.

The NBA has led the world in redefining development-for-people, giving the lie to mainstream media reports that these people are against development, as shown by one of the many slogans of these people: “vikaas chahiye—vinaash nahin”. [Note 4] While resistance remains non-violent by design, there is anger and dismay expressed vocally, never physically, though their slogan, “rajniti dhoka hai—dhakka maro, mouka hai”, shows impatience with the politician-bureaucrat nexus.

People affected by the government-defined displacement-causing development are today aware of their rights, thanks to the NBA—witness the unambiguous slogan, “hum apna adhikaar maangte!—nahin kissi se bhik maangte!” People are disputing the governments’ power of eminent domain built into the present Land Acquisition Act 2013. This is evident from what the PAF children and adults shout with pride: “jal-jangal-zamin konyachi?—amichi!, amichi!” in Marathi, and only slightly differently in Gujarati, “jal-jangal-zamin konachhe—aamichhe, aamichhe”, staking full claim and right over land, water and forest, whatever the law may say. The governments’ injustices are responded to in the call for resistance: “har jor zulum ki takkar mein—sangharsh hamara nara hai!” And as columns of protestors move from one place to another, their lilting marching song is, “narmada ki ghati mein ab sangharsh jaari hai; chalo utho, chalo utho, rokna vinaash hai”.

The environment-ecology aspect of destructive development that threatens to destroy humanity is recognised in “narmada bachao!—manav bachao!”, and two frequently repeated calls for joining hands are “aao ham sangharsh karein—ek doosre ka saath dein” and “hum sab—ek hain”. Positivity of the non-violent revolution against the governments’ misuse of power, is in the slogan “ladenge!—jeetenge!”

Social Integration

Apart from bringing the dam-displacement issue to national and international attention, the NBA has brought women to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men at the forefront of resistance. This is acknowledged in calls of “mahila shakti aayi hai—nai roshni layi hai”, whenever a woman comes up to speak, as increasing numbers do. The NBA has also succeeded in uniting people across the language-divide of the three affected States, coining the catchy slogan “hindi, marathi ya gujarati—ladne wale ek hi jaati”. The NBA’s meetings, often held in temples, have united people across castes to resist the submergence of temples.

Existential Threat

The NBAs success in re-defining social and economic development in the national discourse has attracted diverse movements across the length and breadth of India. These have coalesced into the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), of which the NBA is a member movement. The NBA has attracted many individuals, including formally educated young women and men from urban backgrounds, to live and work in the Narmada valley alongside the PAFs. The dignified non-violent stance of simple adivasi and rural people facing oppression and suffering due to the governments’ policies and officials’ corruption and callousness, is a humbling lesson especially in present times.

Today the NBA is a moral force, and its most important contribution to India and the world is its continuing as a bastion of Gandhian truth and non-violence (satya and ahimsa) in an increasingly violent world, without detracting from the strength and vehemence of its arguments and agitations. But along with these achievements and hope, dark clouds of an existential threat to the PAFs loom with the present monsoon.

The “Development” Altar

The Supreme Court had ordered that raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) dam was to be executed in stages only after completing the R&R mandated for the previous stage. The government was to certify stage-wise R&R completion with an Action Taken Report (ATR) filed before the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court, misled by false ATRs certifying the R&R completion, gave permission for raising of the SSP dam height at each stage, without the PAFs actually being rehabilitated.

Thus, on the basis of repeated falsehood of R&R completion, successive State and Central governments over the years have succeeded in constructing the SSP dam to its finished height of 138.68-metres and even installed the sluice gates.

The present situation is extremely critical because if the sluice gates are closed, the submergence area will increase enormously, and over 40,000 PAFs in Madhya Pradesh alone will be drowned.

This year, the nation faces an almost country-wide drought situation, and prays for a bountiful monsoon. But the 40,000 PAFs in Madhya Pradesh live in dread of that very monsoon for which we pray, because it will drown them.

While PM Narendra Modi strives to place India in a position of prominence in the comity of nations, it can become prominent for the wrong reasons with its Altar of Development claiming the lives of many thousands of the PAFs. 

1995: ‘Learning from Narmada’ (World Bank’s IEG looks at procs, cons)

Independent Evaluation Group, World Bank

The Sardar Sarovar projects on the Narmada River in western India, and the World Bank's role in supporting them until 1993, have sparked worldwide controversy. The projects are designed to bring irrigation to almost 2 million hectares of arid land, in what would be the largest such system in the world. They promise drinking water for 30 million people in drought-prone areas, and electricity for agriculture, cities, and industry. But they threaten the livelihoods of more than 140,000 people in the areas to be flooded by the Sardar Sarovar dam and to be affected by the building of canals. And they may have negative environmental consequences.

An independent review, commissioned by the Bank and completed in June 1992, found that the resettlement and environmental aspects of the projects were not being handled in accordance with Bank policies. Responding to the review, the Bank made its continuing support for the dam contingent on the borrower's achievement of performance standards for resettlement and economic rehabilitation of displaced people, and for environmental protection. But in March 1993 the Bank canceled the remainder of its loan for the project at the request of the Indian authorities. Project construction is proceeding with other funds.

As for any project at the completion of Bank loan disbursements, the Bank has issued completion reports on the Sardar Sarovar projects. The Bank's independent Operations Evaluation Department (OED) has provisionally assessed the projects on the basis of the completion reports. Once key uncertainties are resolved, OED will undertake its own fact-finding work to re-estimate project costs and benefits and--after several years--to produce an impact evaluation. Meanwhile, this Precis outlines the salient findings of evaluations completed thus far, the lessons they yield for development decision making, and the effects that the Narmada experience has had upon the Bank.


The Sardar Sarovar projects were conceived as the first in a series of some 30 projects designed to develop the Narmada basin, which is India's last large unexploited resource for hydropower and irrigation. The Bank's support for the scheme took the form of a ten-year Dam and Power Project (credit 1552/loan 2497) and a companion three-year Water Delivery and Drainage Project (credit 1553). Both projects were processed in parallel and approved in 1985. (See Box 1: Project benefits and costs.)

The basic rationale for the projects is sound. After ten years of negotiation, arrangements for sharing and using water by the four benefiting states--Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Maharashtra, and Rajasthan--were defined by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) in 1979. The comprehensive basin development and management plan, based on binding agreements for water allocation among the states and institutional arrangements for program execution, was a historic achievement. If it can be implemented satisfactorily it will improve the quality of life for millions of very poor people.

Opinions on the projects

Critiques of the Sardar Sarovar projects by local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academics, and the media are diverse and extensive. They have focused mainly on the displacement of small farmers and tribal groups, but also on the treatment of environmental issues and, in the case of some critics, on the basic development model that the projects are seen to symbolize. Some NGOs have expressed concern about the safety of the dam (Box 2). All agree on the need to properly resettle and compensate people adversely affected by the projects. According to some, such as Narmada Bachao Andolan, there has not been a single satisfactory resettlement in the Narmada valley. Others, such as Arch-Vahini, find significant progress being made, where "oustees" have agreed to move, and indeed believe that the projects have been a vehicle for significant improvements in resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) in India.

Independent review

Public concern about the environmental and resettlement aspects of the projects led the President of the Bank to commission the first ever independent review of a Bank-supported project under implementation. The review panel was headed by Bradford Morse. Published in June 1992, the independent review (IR) strongly criticized the Bank and borrower for paying inadequate attention to resettlement and rehabilitation and to environmental protection. (See Sardar Sarovar: The Report of the Independent Review. Ottawa, Canada: Resource Futures International, June 1992.)

Responding to the IR, in September 1992 the Bank set standards of performance for its continuing support of the dam project (the delivery and drainage project had already been completed in July 1992). An action plan, developed by the Bank in consultation with the Indian authorities, was reviewed and endorsed by the Bank's executive directors. In March 1993, however, the Indian government requested the Bank to cancel the remainder of its loan for the project. The government committed itself to completing the project with other sources of funds, and it affirmed its continuing commitment to the R&R and environmental standards embedded in its agreements with the Bank.

Developments since 1992: two evaluations compared

Three years after the IR was published, in March 1995, the Bank's South Asia Region issued completion reports (PCRs) on the Narmada projects. These evaluation reports by operational staff take up the concerns raised by the IR, outline the actions taken since the IR was published, and pinpoint some outstanding questions. Each report contains a section contributed by the borrower that notes points of disagreement with the Bank. The following paragraphs compare the findings of the IR with those of the completion reports.

Resettlement and rehabilitation Independent review: The IR criticized the Bank for failing to comply with its own guidelines on R&R and on the treatment of tribal peoples. The Bank had not insisted on proper preparation of R&R plans or state government policies for implementing the provisions of the NWDT, and the resettlement components of the projects were inadequately appraised. The projects did not meet the needs of tribal people whose land was to be inundated or of people whose land was to be affected by the building of canals. Bank efforts to compensate for the lack of an adequate appraisal helped bring about some improvements, but this "incremental approach" to the task of R&R failed to achieve all the changes needed.

The IR found the borrower to be in breach of the provisions of the NWDT and the Bank's legal agreements. It noted that lack of adequate baseline information on the people to be affected made it impossible to prepare effective resettlement plans, and that the people to be affected had not been adequately consulted or informed of their resettlement options and rehabilitation packages. It also noted institutional weaknesses, poor implementation, particularly in MP, and inadequate links between dam construction and R&R implementation.

The concluding chapter of the IR stated: "There is a need to consider [the projects] in the social and environmental context of the Narmada valley as a whole, to consult, inform, and involve the people affected by the projects....The opposition, especially in the submergence area, has ripened into hostility. So long as this hostility endures, progress will be impossible except as a result of unacceptable means."

PCR: The PCR finds that "A long learning process led to what can now be considered a reasonably well structured program." Each state progressively improved its R&R policy; the most liberal was that of Gujarat, followed by Maharashtra and MP. At the closure of the Bank's loan disbursements, implementation appeared to be satisfactory in Gujarat but less so in Maharashtra and MP. The PCR recognizes the Bank's failure to follow its guidelines at appraisal, but also records the Bank's large efforts to redress the situation during implementation. It acknowledges the complexity of R&R and the efforts made by both Bank and borrower to adopt satisfactory policy, plans, and links between the pace of dam construction and the progress of R&R.

By May 1994, Bank staff report, about 6,600 of the 41,000 families to be affected by the reservoir had been resettled and economically rehabilitated in a satisfactory manner. Out of some 24,000 families who stood to lose more than 25 percent of their land to the construction of canals, about 10,000 had been compensated and economically rehabilitated, though on terms inferior to those that are now being considered by the Gujarat government.


Independent review: The projects disregarded the environmental regulations of both India and the Bank, most of which had been in place for at least a decade. (By 1992, seven years after project approval, neither the Bank's legal requirements nor the conditions attached to the Ministry of Environment and Forests' 1987 environmental clearance had been met.) The review criticized the projects' disjointed, piecemeal approach to environmental planning: "The 'pari passu' principle for doing environmental studies as construction proceeds undermines the prospect for achieving environmental protection." The IR found that lack of basic data and consultation with affected people made it very difficult to anticipate and mitigate environmental impacts. It expressed strong concerns about the projects' possible environmental consequences.

PCR: After the IR the Indian government (August 1993) issued a comprehensive environmental overview for the project, together with studies on the upstream and downstream impacts and a preliminary environmental impact assessment for the irrigation command area. The government made concerted efforts on several environmental fronts, including compensatory afforestation (expected to be completed before the dam is filled), catchment area treatment (underway and expected to be completed on time), and preservation of cultural sites and protection of wildlife. Bank staff note that in early 1995 the government issued an environmental assessment covering all environmental aspects of the project.

The PCR notes that "consultants recruited to assist the borrower believe the remaining environmental matters do not pose serious threats to either the environment or local residents, except in the estuary downstream of the dam where some fishing communities may need R&R and water may need to be released for environmental control at a later stage."

The PCR argues the need to safeguard the environment downstream by maintaining adequate water releases from the dam from the start, rather than risking committing too much water to irrigation and then having to withdraw water supplies from farmers if environmental problems develop downstream.


Independent review: "The threat of malaria is serious, projects have been designed without appropriate safeguards..."

PCR: The Gujarat Health Department has prepared an action plan for surveillance and control of malaria. But sound engineering practice will be needed to limit canal seepage, water logging, and pools of all kinds, and the incidence of waterborne diseases will need to be closely monitored.


Independent review: "Significant discrepancies in the hydrological data and analyses show that the projects will not perform as planned....A comprehensive evaluation is needed, including a complete systems analysis."

PCR: After the IR was published the borrower's Central Water Commission and a Bank consultant reviewed and confirmed the adequacy of the hydrology data that underlie project planning. But a 1994 review by an independent team of experts appointed by the government of India could not reach a firm conclusion on likely river flows and recommended a re-examination of "dependable water availability."

The PCR supports the contention that the river flows are adequately understood. But it argues that in view of the ways farmers will probably use irrigation water, plus the need to maintain water releases to safeguard the environment downstream of the dam, plus the uncertainty about whether the Narmada Sagar dam upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam will be built on schedule, not enough water will be available to irrigate all the planned command area. On this basis the PCR recommends a gradual "stepwise" expansion of irrigation in the command area. In any case, it notes, it would be more economic to irrigate more intensively.

The borrower's view is that water requirements have been properly estimated and that if water is scarce, farmers will be encouraged to give preference to monsoon crops and reduce areas sown in the dry season; reducing the canal command area would contradict the project's prime goal of improving social welfare and equity. As to the implementation of physical works, the borrower still envisages completing the Sardar Sarovar project by the year 2000. Madhya Pradesh has begun building the Narmada Sagar dam and plans to complete it in due time. Bonds have been issued to raise funds; more will be issued to satisfy future financial needs.

The projects today: OED's view

OED reviews the completion reports on all Bank lending operations, and arrives at provisional ratings of operational performance based on the findings of these reports. (See Box 3: OED evaluation method.) For about 40 percent of completed investment operations, it conducts performance audits, and at the audit stage undertakes its own field work and interviews. This work may lead OED to change its provisional rating of an operation's performance.

Once key uncertainties affecting implementation have been removed, OED plans to audit the economics of the Sardar Sarovar projects. The audits will test the validity of the estimates of social costs and benefits that are included in the completion reports and hence underlie OED's provisional performance ratings.

Provisional performance ratings. Based on the facts and judgments presented in the PCR, OED's provisional ratings of the Narmada projects are shown in the table. To reach these ratings, OED took account of:

- the delayed but substantial progress on physical structures;

- the improved R&R policies adopted by the states, and the progress being made in resettlement;

- the link between construction and progress on resettlement;

- the view of independent consultants that significant environmental damage has not occurred and is unlikely to occur, provided monitoring and remedial measures are satisfactory;

- the progress being made in implementing the environmental action plan.

To rate the Bank's performance, OED took account of the Bank's failure to follow its own guidelines on:

- involuntary resettlement--at appraisal, little or no consultation with affected villagers, no established state resettlement policies, and inadequate baseline data for responsible planning;

- indigenous peoples--only Gujarat had studies, and no acceptable proposals for resettlement or training;

- environment--preparation studies were too general, and the projects were approved without the necessary government of India forest and environmental clearances.

OED also considered the Bank's strenuous efforts, in light of the findings of the independent review, to ensure that R&R and environmental standards would be met. And it noted that through involvement in project appraisal and supervision, the Bank provided significant technical support for the design and construction of the civil works, for concrete quality control and assurance, dam safety, and improved information systems.

Looking ahead

The project has made substantial progress in civil works. The PCRs expect benefits to accrue between 1995 and 2010, three years later than expected when the projects were appraised. But in OED's view, further delays of two years or more in both the irrigation and energy generation schedules seem likely.

It is not too late to make the projects a successful development venture. Based on the facts and assumptions presented in the Bank's project completion reports, the projects would realize an economic return of more than 10 percent when completed. This calculation takes account of the probable costs of R&R and environmental mitigation measures, and allows for a five-year delay in completion of the Narmada Sagar dam upstream. The data and assumptions used are consistent with Indian experience in other projects, and in OED's view they do not overlook any major costs or benefits.

However, substantial uncertainties remain. The economic rate of return estimate hinges on several key factors whose outcome is uncertain at this early stage of project implementation. It assumes that the hydrological parameters of the project are firm, that despite delays in completion of the scheme and the associated cost escalations, the scheme will be fully funded and completed, and that the complementary Narmada Sagar dam upstream will be built. Disputes exist as to the final maximum water level in the reservoir (lowering the water level would risk reducing the water flowing to the furthest, most drought-prone, reaches of the command area), and as to the height of the inlet for the irrigation bypass tunnel (lowering the intake would benefit Gujarat's diversions for irrigation, particularly in drought years, but at the expense of Madhya Pradesh's power generation rights). Uncertainties remain about the financing arrangements for the overall development and especially for the purchase of turbine generators needed for the riverbed powerhouse.

Satisfactory R&R is key to success. As the Indian authorities formally reaffirmed in January 1994, dam construction must be synchronized with the R&R program--which has encountered persistent difficulties. The rate of resettlement and rehabilitation has become the key to timely implementation of the civil works. In Gujarat, nongovernmental organizations have been usefully involved in the R&R program, but in the other two states, confrontation persists between project authorities and local NGOs. Maharashtra has recently adopted satisfactory policies on R&R, but about half the villages that are to be flooded are not cooperating with the final counting of people or with the administration of R&R arrangements. Madhya Pradesh's rehabilitation grant to landless families and adult sons is less attractive than those of the other states, and its capacity to implement the R&R program is weaker. An earlier assumption that most of the Madhya Pradesh families to be affected by the dam would move to Gujarat seems unlikely to be fulfilled, so that much more land in MP may need to be procured to compensate them--a process that is likely to be cumbersome. Completion of R&R arrangements for the families affected by the dam will require strengthening implementation capacity in both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.


Many aspects of the Narmada experience confirm findings and lessons from OED's evaluations of other projects. The broad lesson is that the social dimensions of civil works projects need much more attention from both the Bank and its borrower governments. Unless these aspects are mastered, the development enterprise itself will continue to be dogged by public protests and may eventually falter and fail.

Large dams. Large dams are an important part of economic development. They produce needed public goods, including clean energy and drinking water, and enjoy economies of scale. They can be a principal source of water for irrigated agriculture, which in many countries is vital to achieving adequate supplies of food and alleviating poverty.

But investments in large dams need to be prepared thoroughly, appraised rigorously, and implemented effectively. The design and execution of these projects must be sensitive to social and environmental considerations. Their efficacy, efficiency, and sustainability depend on participation and institutional development to ensure effective operation and maintenance and good water management.

Unfavorable experiences with resettlement, and the attendant public outcry, may lead governments to eschew investments in large-scale water storage. This would be unfortunate, as dams can be selected and built so as to be technically, financially, and economically justified as well as socially and environmentally beneficial. (See William Jones, The World Bank and Irrigation, A World Bank Operations Evaluation Study, Washington, DC, 1995, forthcoming, and OED Precis No. 52, Involuntary Resettlement.)

Resettlement. Resettlement of people displaced by projects supported by the Bank has always been, and still is, the responsibility of the borrower agency, but all projects that the Bank supports must conform to the Bank's guidelines (see Box 4: Resettlement: guidelines and recommendations).

Evaluation lessons on resettlement have been drawn both by OED and a Bank-wide review of resettlement operations. These studies confirm that the Bank's guidelines are appropriate, but their findings emphasize that to apply the guidelines consistently will require large shifts in processes and skills within the Bank, as well as institutional development in India and other developing countries. NGOs have an important continuing role to play here, both in advocacy and in implementation.

Experience also emphasizes that the role of government, especially at the local level, is crucial. OED's 1993 resettlement study showed that for resettlement programs to succeed, seven factors need to be present: government commitment; a strong implementing agency; clear established policies and guidelines that adequately define eligibility for resettlement assistance; comprehensive planning; a development program for resettlers that will help them re-establish their livelihood; community involvement in planning and implementing resettlement activities; realistic estimates of resettlement costs, and adequate funding. Beyond the project-by-project activities required, the Bank may need to assist borrowers with institutional development before they can deal adequately with resettlement issues.

In the Narmada projects the Bank did not address the institutional limitations for planning and carrying out R&R or--according to the Bank's completion report--the need to empower the borrower and executing agencies to take greater ownership of the R&R process. The projects operated in a difficult context, because while the government of India entered into financial arrangements with the Bank, the states were responsible for executing R&R policies. The alternative of establishing a common authority to take charge of R&R was not considered under the NWDT award, because under the Indian constitution R&R is a state, not a federal, responsibility. The Bank's involvement, the evaluation in the independent review, and a stronger civil society in India have induced significant shifts in social policies related to infrastructure projects. Mastery of R&R issues may yet emerge out of the current painful Narmada experience.

"Quality at entry". Evidence from hundreds of projects reviewed by OED confirms the importance of proper preparation of projects before they enter the portfolio. In the Narmada projects, adherence to the Bank's guidelines at the outset could have avoided many of the negative consequences of environmental and R&R requirements, which should have been dealt with during project preparation and appraisal. There are severe limits to an incremental approach, especially when the goals set are optimistic and the borrower's institutional base is weak. For lumpy projects, and especially for projects that stretch the borrower's capacity, it almost always costs more time and money to compensate during project implementation for weaknesses in appraisal. This lesson is not yet consistently applied.

Commitment. If a borrower is genuinely committed to a task it will take the actions needed to accomplish it. The Bank cannot make up for a government's lack of commitment to a project or component, or for inadequate implementation capacity, by imposing conditions on its loans. Equally, the Bank's operational directives to its staff are no substitute for staff commitment to effective implementation support, rigorous monitoring, or timely use of remedies.

Need for clarity about roles. The Bank should deliver necessary assistance to the borrower without taking over responsibility for projects and their results. An internal review of lessons from the Narmada projects (May 1993) identified a process by which "the Bank...was seen more and more as the owner of, or at least the major force guiding, the R&R aspects of the projects....the Bank rather than the borrower found itself tagged as the non-performing party." Clearly the Bank should promptly investigate matters raised by NGOs, or other interested groups or individuals, about ongoing projects, and take them up with the borrower as appropriate. But it should not respond on the borrower's behalf or substitute for the borrower in implementation.

Influence on the borrower

Over the decade since the projects were approved, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh have consistently improved their policies with respect to resettlement and tribal peoples. Progress has been unequal across the states, but the adoption of the "land for land" compensation principle, in place of cash compensation, which was usually inadequate, is a fundamental change. Provision of at least two hectares of irrigated land to households whose homes are to be inundated, the treatment of landless people and sons (and, in Maharashtra, daughters) over 18 years old as independent households eligible for replacement land, and provision of housing plots and grants, are further major improvements in the compensation package. The need for complete enumeration of oustees and proper planning has been recognized, and the crucial importance of income restoration highlighted. Further, the government's decision to tie the pace of dam construction to the pace of resettlement--and evidence that this is indeed happening--represents a significant reordering of priorities since the projects were designed.

Influence on the Bank

The Narmada projects have had a far-reaching influence on the Bank's understanding of the difficulties of achieving lasting development, on its approaches to portfolio management, and on its openness to dialogue on policies and projects. Several of the implications of the Narmada experience resonated with recommendations made by the Bank's Portfolio Management Task Force (see Effective Implementation: Key to Development Impact, World Bank, November 1992), and have been incorporated into the "Next Steps" action plan that the Bank is now implementing to improve the management of its portfolio.

Consultation and participation. The independent review of the Narmada projects attributed much of the mishandling of resettlement and environmental questions to a lack of consultation with area residents. Initiatives now underway as part of the Next Steps plan include more systematic analysis of how different constituencies will be affected by proposed new lending operations, and greater involvement of nongovernmental agencies in designing, preparing, and implementing projects. The Bank is experimenting with new approaches in participatory development and identifying practices that can be applied widely in its operations. Many projects in India now have innovative and promising participatory elements. (See Working with NGOs: A Practical Guide to Operational Collaboration between the World Bank and Nongovernmental Organizations, Operations Policy Department, Washington, DC: World Bank, March 1995.)

Skill mix. The mix of skills needed for development financing is changing as participatory approaches are mainstreamed and as awareness of environmental issues grows. In the Narmada projects, the civil works for the dam and irrigation system were the main concern of Bank staff in project design and appraisal, and continued to be so during the early stages of implementation. Many OED evaluations suggest the need to ensure that projects are appraised by sociologists and anthropologists along with economists and engineers. As part of the Next Steps plan the Bank has begun to augment the skills and status of its staff in institution building, public sector management, and social sciences other than economics.

Inspection panel. Experience with the Narmada projects contributed to the Bank's decision to establish an independent inspection panel. This panel, established in September 1994, investigates claims by affected parties that the Bank has failed to adhere to its operational policies and procedures in the design, appraisal, and/or implementation of its ongoing or new operations. The panel consists of three highly qualified individuals appointed by the executive directors; they come from outside the Bank and are from different countries. (See Ibrahim Shihata, The World Bank's Inspection Panel, New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.)

Discussion by CODE

The Committee on Development Effectiveness (CODE) of the Bank's Board of executive directors discussed the completion reports on the Sardar Sarovar projects on April 28, 1995. Some members expressed concern that, although these projects were approved a decade ago, the Bank still handles human and environmental aspects of development less successfully than engineering and economic aspects. Members emphasized the following lessons:

- government "ownership" should be assured, and social and environmental assessments should be completed, before a loan agreement is signed;

- staff should seek to discuss and resolve differences of opinion with borrowers as far as possible before project implementation, rather than assuming that problems will be solved once a project is underway;

- participatory design, piloting, and mid-term reviews may all help to improve the performance of large projects.

Some directors expressed concern that the R&R aspect of several projects of the Sardar Sarovar generation may be deeply deficient, though they recognized the Bank's efforts to apply lessons and come to grips with R&R issues in newer operations.

Decisions: CODE, assisted by the Bank's South Asia Region, will monitor developments in the Narmada basin. The committee will also use its monitoring capacity, through the full Board, to ensure that Bank staff are applying the lessons of Narmada to other operations. It requested OED to re-examine the economics of the Sardar Sarovar projects, and later to prepare an impact evaluation, timing the work so as to ensure reliable re-estimation of economic and social benefits and costs. In view of the widespread interest in the projects within the development community, the committee requested preparation of this Precis, while acknowledging that the projects are still in midstream and that judgments about them may well change after audit and again after impact evaluation.

Box 1: Project benefits and costs

Benefits: The Sardar Sarovar projects seek to provide:

- Irrigation water for about 1.8 million hectares (ha), directly benefiting 800,000 families in severely drought-prone areas, mainly in Gujarat but also in Rajasthan.

- Domestic, municipal, and industrial water for about 30 million consumers, in areas where malnutrition and unsafe domestic water supply cause a wide array of endemic diseases.

- Power generation capacity of 1,450 megawatts (MW) and distribution of hydroelectric energy to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra. The projects would substantially improve the hydrothermal mix of India's Western Regional grid (whose installed capacity was 12,000 MW in 1990). Using hydropower rather than coal to generate 1,450 MW avoids 3.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Costs: Construction costs are estimated as $5.2 billion in 1992 US dollars. As designed, the reservoir will submerge 38,000 ha of land at full water level. It will fully or partly cover 245 villages that are home to 41,000 families (80 percent in Madhya Pradesh, 11 percent in Gujarat, and 9 percent in Maharashtra). As well as their land, the people affected by the reservoir will lose a number of important cultural sites. Canal construction will take about 4 percent of the canal command area or 74,000 ha, and thus affect the land owned by a further 68,000 families. About 24,000 of the canal-affected families stand to lose more than a fourth of their land, and about 2,000 of them will lose more than half. Forest land will be inundated, rates of sedimentation in the river are likely to change, and, in the medium to long term, the reduced flow of river water into the Gulf of Khambat is expected to reduce the yield of artisanal fisheries.

Box 2: Dam safety

The government of Gujarat established a Dam Review Panel in June 1981, made up of five national and two expatriate experts, to ensure the adequacy of the foundation and the overall design safety of the main dam and its appurtenances. The panel accepted the layout, design, and dimensions of the facilities, while the Bank's consultants confirmed the adequacy of the design data, criteria, and safety factors and the integrity of the main dam, spillways, intake and outlet works, and other structures. In 1994, however, a 1/100 year flood caused heavy damage to the incomplete stilling basin. This has now been repaired.

Box 3: OED evaluation method To evaluate the Bank's completed lending operations, OED evaluators look at several facets of achievement, synthesized in three major ratings: outcome, sustainability of benefits, and institutional development.

Outcomes: To assess outcomes, evaluators look at:

- Relevance: the degree to which the operation's goals accorded with the country and sectoral assistance strategies and with Bank's thematic goals.

- Efficacy: the extent to which the operation actually met its physical, macroeconomic, sectoral, and financial goals.

- Efficiency in relation to inputs; to judge this requires a reassessment of costs and implementation times. When benefits can be quantified, the re-estimated rate of return is also calculated.

Sustainability measures the extent to which an operation is likely to maintain an acceptable level of net benefits throughout its economic life. To judge the sustainability of benefits, evaluators look at eight factors--government commitment; the policy environment; institutional and managerial effectiveness; economic, technical, financial, and environmental viability, and beneficiary participation.

Institutional development is the process of improving a country's ability to make effective use of its human, organizational, and financial resources. Evaluators assess the institutional development progress achieved, or expected to be achieved, as a result of the operation.

Some operations may fail on one of these evaluation measures, yet still make worthwhile contributions to development.

To judge the Bank's performance in a completed operation, OED assesses the Bank's compliance with policy and operational guidelines and its performance in project identification, appraisal, negotiation, and supervision.

Box 4: Resettlement: guidelines and recommendations

In 1980 the Bank became the first international organization to establish guidelines on involuntary resettlement in the projects it supports. The guidelines were broadened in 1990 (Involuntary Resettlement, Operational Directive 4.30, June 1990). Both the 1980 and 1990 guidelines call for:

- Adequate compensation for lost assets.

- Assistance with relocation and support during the transition period.

- Assistance in re-establishing former living standards.

Guidelines for the protection of indigenous people were first issued in 1982; updated guidelines, introduced in 1991, require consultation with indigenous people.

Bank's resettlement review

Prompted by the Narmada experience, the Bank reviewed the resettlement aspects of all projects active in 1986-93. This review found that:

- R&R should be considered right from the outset of project identification.

- Modest redesign can dramatically lower the numbers needing R&R.

- Satisfactory R&R is easier when national policies are supportive.

- Detailed surveys, community consultation and participation, and effective planning are keys to success. (See Resettlement and Development, Washington DC: World Bank, April 1994.)

OED's review of early experience with resettlement An OED review of resettlement components in 49 completed projects found Bank guidelines broadly appropriate but poorly applied. It recommended:

- Give rigorous attention to minimizing the number of people to be displaced by Bank-supported projects.

- Ensure that people who stand to lose assets will be fairly compensated.

- Make much greater effort to restore incomes; this calls for better measurement of initial income levels and monitoring during implementation.

- Ensure costs are realistically estimated and will be adequately funded. (See OED Precis No. 52, Involuntary Resettlement.)

1998: early arguments against

23 March, 1998: BBC

The Indian Government intended that the billion pound dam would provide electricity and drinking water for the nearby cities. But the local people, who had not been consulted about the development of the dam that would submerge their villages, rejected the plan. After years of resistance international funding dried up and building work stopped.

The dam was to have been the second largest in the world and many more are planned along the banks of the 800 mile long river, where over 300,000 people live. Unless the Sardar Sarovar dam is completed it cannot generate electricity and the many millions of pounds already spent will have been wasted.

The leader of the resistance

Local people found a champion in the unlikely form of Medha Patkar, an ordinary women who has taken on the might of the Indian Government and the World Bank.

Medha Patkar, originally from Bombay, is committed to non-violent protest. She helped to galvanise the women of the village of Manni Belli into opposing the dam when their homes were threatened. She was beaten and jailed many times. Some of the women who joined her were tortured and raped.

Although the village was eventually flooded, it was the women's resistance that led to a Supreme Court order stopping work on the dam, pending a complete review.

"Gigantic powers were against us. But we were never pessimistic. If one has no hope - one must not fight the battle," said Medha Patkar.

Medha has rejected the accusation that she and the villagers are standing in the way of progress.

"The technology, the project planning or the decision to lend the money by the World Bank to acquire the land or to take away the river water to some other area never involved people. It doesn't accept the right to information that people have. It doesn't accept the right to their own development," she said.

Although the Sardar Sarovar dam has been at a standstill for three years villagers along the banks of the river are still being given notices by the authorities to quit their land. There are fears that construction will start again.

Medha Patkar's fight against big dams is no longer just grass roots politics but has become recognised the world over. She is now on an international commission of the World Bank, which has been set up to question the value of projects like the Sardar Sarovar dam.

Boon or bane, as in 2017?

Himanshu Thakkar, September 22, 2017: The Hindu

Himanshu Thakkar is coordinator, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, and has been associated with the water and environment sectors for more than two decades.

There is as yet no credible assessment of the costs, benefits and impact of the project

To assess whether the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is a boon or bane, we need to have a credible assessment of all the costs, benefits and impacts once the project is completed.

First, the project is still incomplete (even after downscaling the canal network by about 18,000 km), as per Gujarat government figures, with over 30,000 km of canals yet to be completed; the Garudeshwar Dam downstream from the SSP is still under construction (without any social and environment impact assessment). Second, there is as yet no credible assessment of the costs, benefits and impacts of the project. But let us take an overview of the key issues.

Not going to plan

The basic justification offered for the SSP by the Gujarat government from the time of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal in the 1970s was that there is no alternative to SSP waters for the drought-prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat. Funnily, all the incomplete canal network of the project is in these very regions, while in the water-rich and politically-socially-economically powerful central Gujarat region (excluding the eastern tribal belt) the canal network was completed long ago and the people have been enjoying full use of the water, way beyond their share in the original SSP plans. So, the SSP’s basic objective is far from achieved.

Social and environmental impacts have gone far beyond what was estimated at the outset when the project was cleared in the late 1980s. Rehabilitation of even the submergence-affected population is about 80% incomplete, but the Prime Minister, on September 17, 2017, his birthday, declared the project complete! One of the most glaring aspects of this episode is that even the highest judiciary of the country could not assure that the displaced population got a just rehabilitation as required by law.

There are many other dimensions of the impacts of the project. For example, the 150-km stretch of the Narmada downstream from the dam is now dry most of the year and the claim of 600 cusecs (cubic feet per second) being released not immediately downstream but several kilometres from the dam is not supported by any clinching evidence. In any case, that quantum was not the result of any participatory assessment, and is not sufficient to stop even salinity ingress, as was seen in the last several years. The livelihood of at least 10,000 families depending on the Narmada estuary stands destroyed, without any one talking about any rehabilitation or compensation. Similarly, there is no rehabilitation for all the other categories of people displaced by the dam.

Independent review a must

Incidentally, the Sardar Sarovar reservoir could not be filled, and even the extent to which it was filled (up to a maximum of 129.68 m against the full reservoir level of 138.68 m) was possible only by stopping all power generation at the River Bed Power House for almost two monsoon months, and by reducing power generation at the upstream Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams by over 95% and depleting the meagre water storage.

The best way to know if the project is a boon or bane would be through an independent review of the project. Such reviews happened at least twice, one set up by the World Bank, another by the Government of India. In both cases, the outcome was the same: the project in its current form should not go ahead. That answer was available about 25 years ago.

Storage Capacity

2014: Increase in height of dam

Darshan Desai, 23 June 2014: Dailymail

The Gujarat government has been rejoicing over the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) granting permission to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam from the existing 121 metres to 138 metres by erecting sluice gates, but officials concede even at the present height the Narmada waters could reach the parched regions of North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch.

This has only failed to happen because the state government did not complete construction of the canal distribution network, officials said.

The Narendra Modi government in Gujarat had blamed the Centre for the reported delay in the clearance to raise the dam's height, but precious little was done to construct the distribution network needed to take the dam waters to the drought-prone regions.

The reason the NCA was taking its time in clearing an increase in the dam height was the alleged poor relief and rehabilitation work carried out in Madhya Pradesh, one of the four beneficiary states of the Sardar Sarovar Project. And this is what has flummoxed pro and anti-dam activists, who have expressed concern over the rehabilitation process, as well as pointing to the fact that the dam has adequate water to quench Gujarat's thirst.

The latest statistics, provided by Gujarat government officials unwilling to be quoted, suggest that only about 33 per cent or 25,000 square km out of the total 75,000 km canal network has been completed.

The work involves construction of canal, branch canals, minor and sub-minor networks. Gujarat was to make the Narmada dam waters reach 9,633 villages and 157 towns, but government sources said work on the bulk transmission lines to 4,427 villages and 42 towns is far from over.

The dam was to provide Gujarat with nine million acre-feet (MAF) of water with irrigation benefits to 18 lakh hectares of land, but at this time the command area development is in progress for only nine lakh hectares.

According to former veteran minister Sanat Mehta, out of the installed capacity to irrigate 18 lakh hectares, actual irrigation is taking place through Narmada waters only on 1.8 lakh hectares or 10 per cent of the total land. Mehta was the prime mover of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project in its critical days. Even during normal monsoons as much as 50 per cent to 70 per cent water requirements of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat are dependent on Narmada waters, he said, adding that the situation worsens in drought-like conditions. Mehta is not wrong. During 2012 when Gujarat received inadequate rains, the state government had to make emergency plans to create a makeshift network to take Narmada waters to the parched regions.

Lakhs of MP tribals to be displaced

The Narmada Control Authority's decision to allow the raising of the height of the inter-state Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project came less than a fortnight after Narendra Modi took charge as the Prime Minister, and has raised the hackles of environmentalists and activists.

Opponents are wondering why the Madhya Pradesh government was praising the directive when as many as 2.5 lakh people, mostly tribals, would be affected in that state because of this. Officials and environmentalist sources in Madhya Pradesh told to Mail Today that the state of tribals living in rehabilitation centres in four districts of Madhya Pradesh - Alirajpur, Badwani, Dhar and Khargaon - is pathetic.

"The rehab centres in many villages of these districts are not liveable," asserted Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Patkar said that the increased dam height would not have any special advantage for Gujarat as, in fact, the state has not been able to even use the water available at the present 121 metre height.

"This was being done to help industries and urban population in major cities of Gujarat," Patkar told journalists in Madhya Pradesh. Also, she added, this would spell doom for 2.5 lakh people in the state. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati, who hails from Madhya Pradesh and made the proud announcement of the raising of the dam height, "has made several visits to the shabby rehabilitation centres and knows the reality but is quiet," Alirajpur-based activist Rakesh Sen said. He told Mail Today that several people like him were in favour of the dam, but were appalled with the tardy rehabilitation of people affected by the project.

2017: 30 sluice gates locked

Guj gets nod to raise Sardar Sarovar height, June 18, 2017: The Times of India

Closure Of Dam Gates Will Boost Storage Capacity

Gujarat's quest for more Narmada waters got a big fillip on Saturday with the state government ordering the locking of 30 sluice gates at the Sardar Sarovar dam in what will cause more submergence in the upstream areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh..

The Gujarat government got permission late on Friday from the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to close all the radial gates, raising the dam height from existing 121.92 meters to 138.68 meters. This will allow storage of an additional 3.48 Million Acre Feet (MAF) of water to parched areas of the state. The gates started closing early on Saturday and the process was to be completed by late evening.

Chief minister Vijay Rupani, deputy CM Nitin Patel along with senior ministers and bureaucrats rushed to dam site at Kevadiya early on Saturday morning to offer prayers and order closu re of the gates.

“It is a historic day for Gujarat and will open gates of development in the state,“ an ecstatic Rupani said.“Narmada is Gujarat's lifeline. Prime Minister Modi has turned the vision of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel into reality,“ Rupani added.

The development is expected to throw a political lifeline to the BJP in Gujarat as it battles unrest among farmers.

Parched MP released 650mcm water for inauguration

P Naveen, September 23, 2017: The Times of India

When Madhya Pradesh is staring at imminent drought, a controversy has erupted over water release from its Indira Sagar Dam to Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat from September 11-15 to boost water level. Two days later, PM Narendra Modi dedicated Sardar Sarovar Dam to the nation.

Highly placed sources said MP government released 650mcm water from Indira Sagar to Sardar Sarovar Dam so its water level rose to 130m.

Officials of Narmada Valley Development Authority said water release was routine for “power generation“, but Narmada Bachao Andolan activists (NBA) said it was uncalled for when there was shortage. The water would have irrigated two lakh hec tares of land, they said.

Officials told TOI that MP used 35.54 lakh units of power produced by Sardar Sarovar Dam from September 11-15.This is merely 0.41% of the 85 crore units of power used in the state during the period.

TOI has a copy of an advisory issued by Khandwa collector Abhishek Singh on September10, to collectors and SPs of Khargone, Barwani, Dewas and Dhar districts to be vigilant during release of water from the dam due to “incessant rain“. NBA activists said it hardly rained then.

Indira Sagar's water level stood at 253m -10m short of full-tank level -when water was released, said sources.“Gujarat received heavy rains and there was no need for extra water,“ said NBA 's Alok Agarwal. NVDA vice-chairman Rajneesh Vaisha initially denied water was released but later said only “excess would have been released“.

Personal tools