Large Dams

The Indira Sagar Dam and its submergence zone

My first exposure to controversies surrounding large dams was through my association with the campaign against the Silent Valley Project, in 1978. I was, at that time, teaching and living in Shillong, in Meghalaya, and had developed a keen interest in bird-watching: my cottage was located at the edge of a reserve forest which abounded in bird species. Accordingly, I joined the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and was soon drawn into the debate regarding the ecological viability of the Silent Valley Project, which was being questioned by Salim Ali and many others.

I shifted to Delhi the next year and soon became a member (perhaps the oldest-in-age member) of Kalpavriksh, a fledgeling environmental action group set up in 1979 by a group of college and university students. In the early 1980s, some of the student members of Kalpavriksh decided to do a trek to the Narmada Valley in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, to see for themselves the potential social and environmental impacts of the proposed Narmada Valley project, involving over 30 large dams and many medium and small dams on the Narmada river and its tributaries. They returned convinced that the project, as currently being proposed, would be a social and environmental disaster. Subsequently, Kalpavriksh became an inherent part of the struggle against the Narmada project. I was myself persuaded of the need to review much of the project and got rapidly drawn into the debate.

As luck would have it, the two major dams on the Narmada river, Indira Saga and Sardar Sarovar, were given environmental clearance by the government of India, towards the end of the 1980s. As a part of the conditions for clearance, a Narmada Control Authority (NCA) was set up to oversee the implementation of the project. As per the requirements of the government of India, two subgroups of the NCA, one on the environment and the other on rehabilitation, were also constituted. In 1989, I was nominated a member of the NCA subgroup on environment and continue to be a member till today, 32 years later! This long association drew me firmly into the debate about large dams, specifically the Narmada dams.


The government of India had set up a ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) in 1985, to consolidate under one ministry the work related to environment, which from 1980 onwards was being handled by the department of environment, and before that the department of science and technology. Also, brought under the MOEF were matters related to forestry and wildlife, which were till then being handled by the ministry of agriculture. As a part of its new regulatory responsibilities, the ministry of environment and forests set up environmental appraisal committees (EAC) to advise the MOEF regarding environmental clearances for various development projects. In 1989, I was nominated to be a member of the EAC for river valley projects, and thereby my additional involvement with large dams.

Over the years I have not only served on various government committees related to large dams, but I have also been a part of popular movements relating to social and environmental impacts of large dams, and have tried to academically research and debate the pros and cons of river valley projects. Some documents related to these efforts are given below.

Shekhar Singh

Documents yet to be uploaded :

1. Papers related to the Supreme Court case regarding the Tehri Dam.

Documents under Large Dams

1990 – Evaluating River Valley Projects

1992 – Evaluating Major Irrigation Projects in India

1998 – Dams, Conditional Environmental Clearances and the Pari-Passu Clause

1999- Dams and People’s Participation

2000-Case Study – Large Dams – India’s Experience – World Commission on Dam.

2002-Large Dams in India.

2003-Social and Environmental Impacts of Large Dams in India

2004-Allain Duhangan Hydroelectric Project-Report of the Public Hearings

Narmada Project

Documents under Large Dams – Narmada Project

1988-The Narmada Valley Project – A Critique

2000-Maheshwar Hydroelectric Project – Rehabilitation and Resettlement – An Independent Review

2010-Report on Assessment of Command Area Development Plans of Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Projects

Proceedings of the Narmada Control Authority Environment Sub-Group (ESG)

1987- 1992, Introduction & Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – I

1992-1993, Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – II

1993-1996, Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – III

1996-2000, Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – IV

2001-2003, Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – V

2003-2019, Proceedings of the NCA ESG, Part – VI

2008 – NCA Environment Sub Group (ESG) – Subject Wise Review of Minutes

1993-2017 – ESG Related Correspondence

Correspondence and documents related to the Narmada Action Plan and the Narmada Bachao Andolan

1988-1993-file1 kv-narmada -correspondence and documents

1988-1991-file 2-kv-narmada-correspondence and documents

Narmada Project:

Relevant Unpublished/Out-of-print Documents by Other Authors

2019-environmental safeguard measures-sardar sarovar project

Tehri Project

Documents under Large Dams – Tehri Project

1990-Environmental Appraisal of the Multi Purpose Tehri Dam Project

1995- India’s Time Bomb

1997-Report of Expert Committee – Vol I – Rehabilitation & Environmental Aspects of Tehri Project

1997 – Report of Expert Committee – Vol II – Rehabilitation & Environmental Aspects of Tehri Project

Tehri Project :

Relevant Unpublished/Out-of-print Documents by Other Authors

1986-Assessment of the Environmental Impact of the Tehri Dam – Report of the Working Group

1998 – Report of the Group of Experts on Seismic Safety of Tehri Dam – Vol I

1998 – Report of Group of Experts on Seismic Safety of Tehri Dam – Vol II

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