Dams and Development: Stress Factors for Environment and Societies

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Namita GUPTA, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
Rajiv GUPTA, Municipal Corporation, India
Prior to 1947, water resource development works in India comprised mostly of diversion weirs or small earth dams not exceeding 15 to 20 metres in height. With the adoption of policies for planned development after freedom in India, a major priority for policymakers was in favour of large dams. The visibility, scale and sweep of mega-dams made them potent emblems of the reconstruction and regeneration of the battered economies of long-suppressed post-colonial nations. The national plans also attempted to incorporate wherever possible a multi-purpose orientation to dam projects, including hydro-power, flood control and navigation, in addition to irrigation. Although enthusiasm for mega-dam projects amongst policy-makers remains largely undimmed, a formidable body of independent empirical research into many of these large dams has established how their social, human and environmental costs have been ignored or grossly understated in the planning of these projects, and the expected benefits exaggerated. Despite these social and environmental costs, a major resurgence in dam construction worldwide is now under way, driven by infusions of new capital from developing countries and a public campaign by the dam-building industry to greenwash hydropower as a source of clean energy. The present paper attempts to analyze some of the social and environmental impacts of hydropower projects in India and especially those that result directly or indirectly from the omissions or commissions of policy.