Constructing dams in mountain valleys in India presents multifaceted challenges that demand a well-structured rehabilitation policy to mitigate unforeseen contingencies. Balancing environmental security and inclusive economic development is crucial in such scenarios.

Inherent Risks in Dam Projects:

  • Environmental Impact: Dam construction often leads to deforestation, submergence of villages, and displacement of tribal communities.
  • Ethnic Communities Displacement: Long-standing tribal inhabitants face difficulties in finding alternative homes and livelihoods.
  • Natural Hazards: Unpredictable events like landslides, earthquakes, and flash floods can disrupt dam projects.

Rational Policy Approach:

Transparent Rehabilitation and Resettlement:

  • Implementation of resettlement packages to enhance the well-being of ethnic communities.
  • Compensation for loss of houses, forest resources, grazing lands, etc.
  • Example: Sardar Sarovar Dam’s comprehensive rehabilitation policy.

Transparency and Economic Welfare:

  • Provision of complete information to displaced individuals.
  • Offering sustainable livelihood options, considering vulnerabilities (class, caste, gender, age).
  • Example: Indira Sagar Dam project’s emphasis on livelihood restoration.

Public Participation and Hearing:

  • Engage negatively affected stakeholders through public hearings and social audits.
  • Ensure their active involvement in decision-making.
  • Example: Narmada Bachao Andolan’s role in influencing dam policies.

 Empowering Tribal Welfare:

  • Involve forest-dwelling communities in decision-making regarding submergence risks.
  • Address unique vulnerabilities of tribal populations.
  • Example: Bori Wildlife Sanctuary’s collaborative management model.

Dynamic Environmental Impact Assessment:

  • Periodic assessment with participation from environmentalists and civil society.
  • Monitor land-use patterns, agriculture, and tourism activities.
  • Example: Tehri Dam’s ongoing environmental assessments.

Disaster Preparedness:

  • Develop predictive mechanisms for early warning systems based on scientific insights.
  • Utilize radio communication for disseminating critical information.
  • Example: Bhakra Dam’s disaster management strategies.

Constructing dams in ecologically sensitive mountain valleys necessitates a holistic approach that balances development and environmental preservation. India’s experiences from incidents like Kerala and Karnataka floods underscore the importance of proactive policies to address unforeseen contingencies. By integrating transparent rehabilitation, stakeholder participation, and environmental monitoring, the government can foster sustainable growth while safeguarding natural and human resources.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish March 27, 2024