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Large Dams in India

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Division H, Group 2


Arpan Daswal


Delvin Devakumar


Oindrila Dhar


Yajur Gulati


Himani Kakkad


Apoorva Somani



We, the members of the Group Project, certify that the submitted written report is the original work of our team and all the analysis and reporting text is entirely our own. Facts, figures and other relevant information drawn from sources, where required is duly acknowledged.




  1. Introduction


  1. Sardar Sarovar Dam


  1. Tehri Dam


  1. Conclusion


  1. Appendix


  1. References


1. Introduction

Dams emerged as a symbol of modernity in the 20th century. They were equated with progress and economic development and were applauded for being able to help harness hydro resources for food, energy flood control and domestic use.

As of 2000, there are over 45,000 large dams identified by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) with India and China being the most prolific dam building countries in the world. They lead the world in the construction of dams, with 2/3rd of the dams in the world today lying in these two countries. In fact, soon after independence, the first Indian Prime Minister recognized the importance of dams in the development of the country and incorporated their construction throughout the country in the First Five Year Plan itself. As a result, during India’s first Five Year Plan a great number of irrigation projects were started which include the Mettur Dam, Bhakra Nagal Dam and the Hirakud Dam.

Dams tend to play both a positive and negative role on the society. They help in harnessing a renewable source of energy i.e. hydroelectricity. Apart from this, dams help in flood control, they store water in reservoirs, which us released when flow is low. They provide recreation areas for fishing and boating.

However, they also come with their set of negative impacts. Dams convert rivers from free-flowing ecosystem to artificial slack water habitats. This inhibits fish migration, changes the chemical composition of water which ends up being unsuitable for the river flora and fauna. It also disturbs the natural replenishment of sediments downstream.

In this report, we will have an objective look at two river valleys projects – the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River and the Tehri Dam on the Bhagirathi River.

2. Sardar Sarovar Dam

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is one of the largest dams in the world with a length of 1.2 Kms and depth of 163 meters. It is shared by the three states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Rajasthan also came in the list later. The foundation for the dam was laid by the Lt. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru back in 1961 but the dam has been amid extreme debate and controversy since its proposal.

The Narmada Valley Development Project involved the construction of 30 large dams which included the Sardar Sarovar Dam as well, 135 medium and 3000 small dams on the Narmada river and its tributaries. The project was plagued by social, environmental and political disputes.


Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were the major stakeholders involved in the project. Apart from these states, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists like Medha Patkar, Bhagwatibai Patidar and Jamsingh Nargave are also closely associated with this project.


All the states involved in the project had different agendas regarding the Narmada Valley Project.

Gujarat had severe water scarcity problem due to low rainfall and was hoping to use the project to secure water for irrigation and drinking purposes.

Maharashtra primary goal from the project was to use hydroelectricity generated from the project for its industrial districts. However, it had a major concern regarding the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam since the dam was going to cause mass scale displacement of people in its state.

Madhya Pradesh also had similar concerns regarding the mass scale displacement of its people. Rajasthan was involved in the project later and wanted to secure water for its dry south western districts.

The NBA was initiated by Medha Patkar. It protested the large-scale displacement that the project was going to cause, the inconsiderate compensation offered to those who were going to be displaced and the abuse of power by government authorities in charge of the project. The project was being financed by the World Bank even though it did not meet the Ministry of Environments guidelines for dams.


The Sardar Sarovar Dam was proposed in the 1950s and it was inaugurated by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2017. It is safe to assume that the project had already over shot the assumed budget because of the time for completion. It was involved in a lot of litigation which would have also added to the cost.

There were some interesting points that were discovered on the social, economic and environmental aspects of the project. First and foremost, the primary stakeholders of the project, namely the four states all had different expectations from the project. Gujarat and Rajasthan were trying to compensate for environmental deficiency (rainfall), Maharashtra wanted to use the Sardar Sarovar Dam for economic gains (hydroelectricity) and Madhya Pradesh wanted to protect its people from getting displaced and not being compensated adequately.



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