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Medha Movement

It is to Medha Patkar's credit -- and she has been hugely successful -- that local protests have turned into a genuine people's movement, known as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement).

india Updated: Apr 19, 2006 13:54 IST

The Narmada Dam Project or the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP),involving the construction of a series of large hydroelectric dams on the Narmada River in India, was first mooted in the 1940s by the country's first prime minister, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru.

It was given shape in 1979 as part of a development scheme to increase irrigation and produce hydroelectricity.

Of the 30 large dams planned on river Narmada, Sardar Sarovar is the largest. With a proposed height of 136.5 m, it's an apple of discordbetween the planners and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The government claims the multi-purpose project will irrigate more than 1.8 million hectares - most of it in drought prone areas like - Kutch and Saurashtra.

India's most controversial dam, the Narmada dam project's environmental impact, net costs and benefits are widely debated. The Narmada Dam has been the centre of controversy since the late 1980s.

It is to Medha Patkar's credit -- and she has been hugely successful --that local protests have turned into a genuine people's movement, known as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement).

The World Bank was a funder of the SSP, but withdrew after an independent review in 1990. While renowned writer Arundhati Roy has been protesting the Narmada Dam project, ace Bollywood actor Aamir Khan, post Rang De Basanti, that dealt with country's youth and their involvement in the socio-political arena, has also joined the bandwagon, leading a pack of other stars. The timing could not have been more suitable: Medha and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi are currently engaged in a full-scale war, fast and furious.

Spanner Films's documentary Drowned Out (2002) follows one tribal family who decides to stay at home and drown rather than make way for the Narmada Dam.

First Published: Apr 17, 2006 14:56 IST