ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Damned by the Dam

The protest by Omkareshwar oustees illustrates development without humanity.

The poignant jal satyagraha earlier this month by over 50 men and women, many of them elderly, standing in the waters of the Narmada River is a reminder of the “collateral damage” caused by so many of India’s large dams, its so-called “temples” of progress. It is the story of the displacement and pauperisation of thousands of people living in the shadow of these dams who have lost their lands and their livelihoods and gained nothing. It is a stark illustration of the meaning of the term “destructive development”.

The struggles against the 30 large dams on the Narmada River, led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) from the mid-1980s, have receded from public memory. But the images of the jal satyagraha in Gopalgaon village, Khandwa district, Madhya Pradesh, where representatives of the thousands of families displaced by the 520 MW Omkareshwar Hydroelectric Project stood in waist to neck-deep water for 17 days, reminded us that these struggles are far from over. And the issues remain the same – the unfinished business of resettlement and rehabilitation for those whose lands have been submerged.

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