India has undergone many dam projects as have many other developing countries. Foreign investment, flood control, irrigation canals, and energy production are the cited reasons for dam construction but critics claim that the devastation to the human population living in the flood zones and the ecological damage, as well as statistics stating historical dam projects provide significantly less energy output as expected, encourage extreme resistance to dam construction.
In India, massive protests in the form of hunger strikes, and donations of book royalties from famous Indian writer Arundhati Roy* keep this debate in the news.
Book Review: "Power Politics", 2001, author Arundhati Roy, Indian female writer (also author of famous novel "The God of Small Things"
This book is a series of essays exploring water dam building and energy production in India, political response to September 11, 2001 in expectation of a U.S. war with Afghanistan, and free speech.
One essay from the book is called "The Reincarnation of Rumpelstiltskin." Roy provides statistics and arguments against the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens who lived and farmed on lands where the Indian government wanted to flood in the construction of dams. Resistance against dams, the overall ecological damage being the primary grounds of argument, is a common one in the United States; however, in most cases, a dam displaces few people.
Roy opens our eyes to the plight of thousands and thousands of people living in India, most of them already poor and with little political influence who are forced to leave their homes and try to find a new way to support themselves. I am not in a position to assure you of the accuracy of her statistics and statistics can always be manipulated, but her image of the conditions of the displaced is well worth being aware of.
The Sardar Sarovar dam in India was fiercely debated. One website described one of the resettlement villages for the people who were displaced by this dam.
"The sites, severely lacking basic infrastructure such as sewage and irrigation facilities, can themselves hardly be called villages. Yet since the mid-1990s, these sites have been home to 80 families who once lived in the now-submerged village of Makhekheda. Nearly 12,000 other families live in sites that pass as villages off similar unnavigable roads across Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. These families, who had their land and livelihoods submerged as a result of the 360-foot high Sardar Sarovar dam, dot the unseen landscape of the Sardar Sarovar project."**
Statistics of the people affected vacillate wildly between 50,000 to 1 million*** however, to the families involved, the gravity of their situation is barely affected by a massive number of neighbors. For these families, they are forced to promptly create a new way of earning a living and rewrite traditions that may be generations old. The hunger strikes and protests against these dam projects may reside more with people rehabilitation and perhaps less on the ecological damage or even the economic necessity. Critics also claim that many of the dam projects end up providing only a fraction of the amount of energy intended.****
I sought out her work because an essay I was reading said that Roy believes that individuals should take responsibility for themselves and stop claiming to be a victim. Few people feel this way today as many of us are tempted to blame the government, parents, spouses, or society for our own shortcomings. "Power Politics" is her only book I’ve read so far. Further research into her work leaves me impressed at her forthrightness, clarity of purpose, and commitment to others. She has been widely criticized for her actions and has also been taken to court. In response to criticism, she said:
"I am hysterical. I'm screaming from the bloody rooftops. And he and his smug little club are going 'Shhhh... you'll wake the neighbours!' I want to wake the neighbours, that's my whole point. I want everybody to open their eyes".*****
Is there an issue you feel passionate about? Have you been contributing to the solution? Have you turned your passion into commitment?
Looking for more?
The International Day of Action Against Dams For Rivers, Water, and Life
Narmada River project – problems and solutions – evaluates Indian dam project calling for 3,000 dams on the Narmada River.
*Arundhati Roy donates book royalties
**”Dam-Affected Resettlement in India: A Photo Essay” by Chhandasi Pandya, April 29, 2006
***”Dam-Affected Resettlement in India: A Photo Essay” by Chhandasi Pandya, April 29, 2006
****Dams do not provide expected energy output
*****Arundhati Roy quote : SCIMITARS IN THE SUN, Frontline, Volume 18 - Issue 01, Jan. 06 - 19, 2001
About the author: Allison Frederick is a writer and online marketing educator for other creative women. www.FaMissWomen.com offers free Web 2.0 resources. She is also the author of an upcoming novel, A Portrait of Josephine, an academic-lite thriller. Find out how to receive a free copy of the novel by visiting www.portraitofjosephine.com