Dam Planning Under the Spotlight in India

Thursday, October 10, 2013

In the past decade, the central and state governments of India threw caution to the wind when approving hundreds of hydroelectric dam projects in the upper reaches of Himalayan rivers. But in the aftermath of the destructive Uttarakhand floods of 2013, the Supreme Court of India directed that no further clearances be given and that a committee look in to whether existing and under-construction hydro projects exacerbated the crisis. 

This timely guide written by Urmi Bhattacharjee – an environment and wildlife journalist from northeast Indiafor International Rivers explains how dam sanctioning takes place in India. The report highlights how statutory clearance provisions are often circumvented to expedite dam projects without following the stipulated environmental safeguards.

Dam Planning under the Spotlight: A Guide to Dam Sanctioning in India cuts through the bureaucratic tangles and seeks to inform civil society about the existing legislative and policy framework in India. The author seeks answers to questions such as how to locate a dam site, what is the procedure for a developer to apply for a project in India, and what are the stages of clearances for a proposed dam. Relevant examples underscore how rules are flouted and allude to arbitrary processes in selection. 

The report also tackles the issue of ageing dams – a progressively serious concern in India – and seeks to open a dialogue with members of technical agencies who have misrepresented dams as permanent structures. In doing so, this report seeks to bring lifecycle and safety concerns of dams into mainstream policy debates.