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Maheshwar Dam - Narmada Valley, India


The Maheshwar hydropower project is one of the many planned dams and hydropower plants in the Narmada basin, known as Narmada Valley Development Plan (NVDP). It was launched in 1975 by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA); it has been planned for power generation purposes, in order to provide with electricity industries and therefore fordern local industrial development. In 1994 it was handed over to the private textile company S. Kumars, as part of the wave of massive liberalizations and privatizations under Rajiv Gandhis government. The new Shree Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Power Corporation Ltd (SMHPC) was originally owned by S. Kumars, but with major equity positions intended for foreign investors. The Maheshwar dam is therefore known as the first hydropower project in India to be privatized. The project has been now suspended because of noncompliance of dam authorities with Indian law about resettlement and rehabilitation of oustees. A large movement, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that includes tribal people, farmers and environmental and human rights activists, has been peacefully fighting against the project as well as against the construction of other 30 big and 135 mid-size dams planned in the NVDP. The struggle in Maheshwar has been going on for the last 15 years and has pushed for viable alternatives and reported about violation of national laws and human rights.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Maheshwar Dam - Narmada Valley, India
State or province:Madhya Pradesh - India
Location of conflict:Maheshwar
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The proposed Installed Capacity of the Maheshwar Dam is 400 MW.

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Project area:5700
Level of Investment for the conflictive project300000000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:80000
Start of the conflict:1997
Company names or state enterprises:Shree Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Power Corporation Ltd (SMHPC) from India
Bayernwerk from Germany
Siemens from Germany
Vereinigten Elektrizittswerke Westfalen AG (VEW) from Germany
Ogden Corporation from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Government of India, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Electricity Board , Madhya Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation Limited (MPSIDC).
International and Finance InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America
Power Finance Corporation (PFC) from India
Corporación financiera Internacional (CFI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Narmada Bachao Andolan, National Alliance of Peoples Movement, International Rivers, Friends of the River Narmada, Urgewald
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Landless peasants
Social movements
Academics and research centres
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Jal Satyagraha - self immolation in rising water in the dam reservoir
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Desertification/Drought, Fires, Global warming, Soil contamination
Other Environmental impactsland slides
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Deaths
Potential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Proposal and development of alternatives:Cancel and dismantle the project; guarantee a vital flow in other running dams; ensure the implementation of rehabilitation measures and participatory decision making processes.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Due to the noncompliance of the dam authorities with the Indian law and Resettlement and Rehabilitation policies, the project has been lawfully suspended until the people get proper compensation.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

Projects - 2003 ()
[click to view]

Rehabilitation Policy for the Oustees of Narmada

National policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families - 2003 ()
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Towards an Efficient and Low Cost Power Sector - Draft Chapter on Energy (Prepared for the Narmada Valley Task Force, Appointed by the Government of M.P.)

Report of the Task Force Committee constituted by the GoMP to review the Maheshwar Hydro-Electric Project, 1998

In the Belly of the River, Amita Baviskar, Oxford University Press 1997

The Maheshwar Dam in India, Heffa Schcking, Urgewald, 1999

The Hindu:
[click to view]

Friends of the river Narmada
[click to view]

Urgewald web page on India:
[click to view]

The Maheshwar Dam in India
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

TV News:
[click to view]

Protests in Delhi:
[click to view]

Protests in Berlin:
[click to view]

Other comments:The total cost up to 2013 is Rs. 1673 crores (more than US$ 300,000,000)
Lots of material is available by NBAs offices. For further information, please write to [email protected]
Meta information
Contributor:Daniela Del Bene
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:188
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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