Power Finance: Financial Institutions in India's Hydropower Sector - full report

Peter Bosshard
Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Is it hydropower or Hydra power?
Is it hydropower or Hydra power?
In ancient Greece, a nine-headed snake called Hydra lived in the marshes of Lerna. She was the daughter of a giant and a nymph, and the sister of Sphynx, Cerberos, and Chimaera. Again and again, Hydra ravaged the fields, destroyed the crops and devoured the cattle of the local farmers. At last, King Eurystheus asked the Greek hero Herakles to bring Hydra’s reign of terror to an end. A horrible battle unfolded in the marshes of Lerna. Every time Herakles cut off one of the serpent’s heads, two new ones grew from the ghastly body. In the end, of course, the courage of the hero prevailed over the serpent’s evil blood.

Hydra power?
The farmers of the fertile Nimad region in India’s Narmada valley are not concerned about mythical snakes and other beast. Their economic and social livelihood is threatened by a string of hydropower projects on the Narmada river. The Maheshwar dam, on which construction has already started, would (if completed) displace and negatively impact 50,000 people from 61 villages. Other dams would have social and environmental impacts on an even more devastating scale.

The communities of the Nimad region have opposed the Maheshwar dam and other projects for many years. Supported by movements and nongovernmental organizations, they have taken on banks, export credit agencies, and large corporations. Yet like in the battle of Lerna, every time a funder or contractor withdrew from the project, new investors and equipment suppliers appeared on the scene.