Big Dams Are No Longer a Solution

Hindustan Times (New Delhi, India), September 19, 2017 | Go to article overview

Big Dams Are No Longer a Solution


NEW DELHI, Sept. 19 -- The scientific imagination that put big dams at the centre of a national development paradigm belongs to a century long gone. The prevalent ideology around the world at the time when dams such as the Sardar Sarovar were envisioned have undergone a sea change in the decades it has taken to bring it to conclusion. The original thought behind building dams was the promise of hydropower. But this outlook was changing even in the 1950s. Jawaharlal Nehru himself, who famously called dams 'temples of modern India' in 1954, had changed his mind by 1958, observing that we suffered from "the disease of gigantism". In a letter to chief ministers in 1957, he pointed out the need to balance development with the need to protect the environment.

Internationally, there have now been many attempts to do away with large projects that disrupt not just the lives and livelihoods of people, but also destroy the ecosystem. Over a 1,000 dams have been removed till date in the US. The Aswan Dam in Egypt has been blamed for the erosion of the Nile River delta, deterioration of agriculture in the area, and the increased incidents of parasitic diseases such as schistosomiasis.

The other major problem with such large projects is that of rehabilitation of displaced people. …

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