After years of controversy, India completes massive dam project

One of the world’s longest-running social and environmental campaigns is sleeping with the fishes as of Sunday, when the last bucket of concrete was poured on the Sardar Sarovar Dam in the Indian state of Gujarat. The project, initiated nearly 20 years ago, diverts India’s fifth-largest river, the Narmada; authorities say it will provide drinking water, irrigation, and power to millions in Gujarat and neighboring areas. “India has taken a leap ahead,” proclaimed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. “The dam will change the future of the country.” Indeed it will, says green group Save the Narmada Movement, which spent at least five years in a legal battle to stop the project. The group predicts that the dam will displace 320,000 people, many of them poor tribal farmers, and disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands more. “The Sardar Sarovar dam is a classic case of cheating the poor,” says Save the Narmada’s Medha Patkar. “It has been built to destroy the economy of rural India.”