Magazine article New Internationalist

Constructing Destruction: Women at Work on the Great Concrete Cliffs of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India Are Building a Giant That Will Swallow Up the Narmada River Valley (Photographs)

Magazine article New Internationalist

Constructing Destruction: Women at Work on the Great Concrete Cliffs of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in India Are Building a Giant That Will Swallow Up the Narmada River Valley (Photographs)

Article excerpt

ACONSTRUCTION site. Landscapes of concrete, cranes, cables. Heavy lifting, earth moving, hard labour by fragile forms in flowing robes, thin - limbed and upright, treading gently over the rubble. At first sight this is a place of paradox.

But there's no strangeness in women labouring in India. The world's hard labour is done mostly by women: in the fields, breaking the soil, tending the crops, carrying the harvest, the water and firewood.

Here too in the Narmada Valley: a modern wonder, harnessing the power of nature for the benefit of people, for progress. The massive Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat, India has been planned since 1947. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Nehru in 1961. Thousands of villages and 131 urban centres will have their drinking water and electricity needs met. Noble work for noble people. Huge loans from the World Bank to pay for it. A collective effort.

But... 'For the last seven years a fight has been going on,' says Medha Patkar, one of the leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan -- an opposition campaign which in 1991 won the 'Alternative Nobel Prize', the Right Livelihood Award. 'It is now quite clear that the Narmada Valley is being led towards destruction -- not just of its environment but also of its human communities. …

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