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Walls of apathy

Harsha Vadlamani | Updated on January 09, 2018 Published on November 24, 2017

In the absence of proper resettlement and rehabilitation measures, thousands continue to live dangerously close to the rising backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam

The Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Gujarat is the largest of several dams being built across the Narmada and its tributaries as part of the Narmada Valley Project. The dam, whose foundation was laid in 1961 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, has had its height raised incrementally from the initial 80 metres to nearly 139m now, making it the world’s second-largest concrete gravity dam by volume. The backwaters of the dam displaced more people every time its height was raised, which had led to several heated debates over whether the damages caused by the dam overweigh its benefits. The most vocal opposition to the project is the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which estimates that at least 40,000 households have been affected in Madhya Pradesh (MP) alone.

The dam, 56 long years in the making, was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17 this year. Earlier, on June 17, authorities declared the dam’s construction complete and ordered closure of all its gates together for the first time, leading to gradual submergence of upstream regions.

Travelling through the submergence zone in the Dhar, Khargone, Alirajpur and Barwani districts of MP a few days before the inauguration on September, I found that thousands continue to live dangerously close to the rising backwaters, in the absence of proper resettlement and rehabilitation measures.

Harsha Vadlamani is a freelance photojournalist whose current work focuses on agrarian crises the environment issues of development and displacement across India

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Published on November 24, 2017