Damn the DAMS

The Tehri, Narmada and such other large dams have been truly designed to damn the people and their environment. While politicians and engineers collect huge kickbacks, the displaced families are not entitled even to a humane resettlement.

At the root of this is denial to the people, prior to approval of such projects, of their sovereign right to consultation, through public hearings. Public hearings, as presently organised, are a sham.

Public hearings should be mandatory for all urban and regional projects exceeding 1000 square meters in land area or 10 meters in height. They should be conducted, not by state officials, but by hearing commissioners appointed through an independent process. Their reports should be made public.

For environmental project, two alternative concepts, at least one by an independent consultant should be presented. Delays and wastage due to faulty decisions and needless social unrest, as in Narmada and Tehri projects, can then be avoided.

Whenever rehabilitation is involved, a rehabilitation commission and an agency to defend the rights of the community should be instituted through an independent process. The expenditure on both should a charge on the project.

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