Temples of Modern India? Dam Controversies Past and Present
Published byModified over 3 years ago
Presentation on theme: "Temples of Modern India? Dam Controversies Past and Present"— Presentation transcript:
1 Temples of Modern India? Dam Controversies Past and Present Kathleen D. MorrisonDepartment of AnthropologyUniversity of Chicago
2 What a stupendous, magnificent work—a work which only that nation can take up which has faith and boldness! ...it has become the symbol of a nation’s will to march forward with strength, determination, and courage… As I walked around the [dam] site I thought that these days the biggest temple and mosque and gurdwara is the place where man works for the good of mankind. What place is greater than this, this Bhakra-Nangal, where thousands and lakhs [hundreds of thousands] of men have worked, have shed their blood and their sweat and laid down their lives as well? Where can be a greater and holier place than this, which we can regard as higher?
3 Dams are the temples of modern India, where I worship… --Jawaharlal Nehru, First Prime Minister of independent India, comments at the opening of the Nangal canal, Punjab
4 Dams and the nation: independent India and the official appeal of big dams Anti-colonial responseModernism and scienceSelf-sufficiency in food productionHistorical legacies--suppression of Indian industry by british--era of great enthusiasm for science and modernism. TVA as model, also Soviet style 5 year plans. Seeking a new course as an independent nation--experience with famines, food importer to 1970s. Irrigation and green rev package seen as savior--less well discussed, long historical tradition in south asia, just rule associated with patronage of irrgation, more than a thousand years of dam-building in India, not necessarily small scale.
5 Need for food Need for power India has a population of more than one billion and growingrainfall is highly seasonalSignificant regional variability of rainfallLarge population living at or below poverty lineNeed for powerGrowing proportion living in citiesRural electrification and agricultural usesNo oil or gas resourcesDoes India need dams? well, it needs water and power.
6 the present situation: polarization Contemporary India “one of the most active dam-building countries on earth”Multiple large projects currently underwaySignificant political will shown at state & national levelsWorld Bank pulloutSignificant local protestCourt challengesInternational pressureAcademic studiesDoes India need dams? Absolute polarization; state and middle class urbanites on one side, rural poor and environmentalist community on other
7 The Narmada Project Ca. 1.5 million to be displaced Most contentious is Narmada projectMore than 30 major damsPower and water to primarily benefit GujaratDisplaced people and lands primarily in MPOusteees disproportionately poor and powerlessCa. 1.5 million to be displacedNo environmental studiesNo rehabilitation plan in place yetMore than 20 years in progress thus far
8 Protest against Narmada Project: Narmada Bachao Andolan Impulse for formation of Narmada Bachao Andalan ; dharna, fasting etcForms of protest developed during independencemovement deployed against government-leddam projects in India
9 In response,government points to Bhakra-Nangal Project Begun prior to independence, completed shortly afterLocated in HP, serves Punjab , Haryana, and RajasthanInundated extensive lands esp. Bilasapur state36,000 displaced. Harvey Slocum, superintending engineer
10 Bhakra dam Highest concrete gravity dam in Asia Hydroelectric Intensive production of HYV wheat and riceIndustrialized productionPunjab “breadbasket of India”Often credited with making India self-sufficient in food
11 Evaluating the arguments: historical perspectives on dams in India Middle Period (Medieval) dams and reservoirs of south India10th-16th c.Bhakra-Nangal and Tungabhadra Projects1940s-60sSo who is right? Can we resolve this impasse? Look at existing dams, from 60 to 600 years old/
12 Reservoirs were highly elaborated in Middle period southern India and Sri Lanka both large and small reservoirs continue in useThe impacts of older reservoirs were comparable to those of modern onesEcological effectsSocial effectsCultural logics of patronage and rule
13 The Peninsular Interior: Archaeology of an Agrarian Landscape Contexts of patronage & constructionElite financingRitual associationsLabor mobilizationHistories of reservoirs on the landscapePatterns of construction, maintenance, and abandonmentSiltation patterns, sediment inflowRegional Vegetation HistoriesPatterns of hillside erosion and valley floor siltationIntegration of Agricultural facilities with settlements, road networks, markets, etc.More than a decade of research. Time frame: 2000 BC to present, archaeological, historical, paleoenvironmental work
14 Problems with large dams Environmental problemsSubmergence of forests and other ecosystemsSiltation behind the damLoss of fertility downstreamLoss of reservoir capacityExacerbation of downstream erosionBlocked passage for migratory animalsMicroenvironmental effects on climateSo what have we learned from both more recent (1940s+) and more ancient (1300+) irrigation facilities? Well, the story is very familiar to critics of modern dams:The Mahaseer is now threatenedin many Indian rivers
15 Middle Period Reservoirs In dry areas, could make dry crops more secure, in wetter areas allowed production of rice and other wet cropsHigh rate of failureVariable rainfall, often do not fillHigh evaporation ratesHigh siltation ratesSerious deforestation in catchmentsHigh incidence of dam breachingVillages washed awayRequired constant maintenanceBritish notes from 1876 famine, Mosse’s comments on contemporary Tamil tanks.
16 Problems with large dams Environmental ProblemsPossible tectonic effectsWater pollutionAlgae blooms, pesticidesHabitat for invasive plantsWaterlogging of command areaSalinization of command areaDecreases in agricultural production
17 Tungabhadra project Spread of invasive water hyacinth Salinization and waterlogging are serious problemsMarginal and poor farmers most affectedHas led to loss of agricultural productivityThe Bhakra command area, too, hasexperienced salinization and waterlogging
18 Problems with Large Dams Human ConsequencesInundation of land, villages, homes, sacred placesDisplacementUnequal water distributionExacerbates power differencesLoss of rural employmentEncouragement of commercial productionLoss of subsistence independenceLoss of local jobsDisplacement disproportionally affects the poorer, people without clout
19 Middle Period Southern India: Human Costs Inundation caused displacement, loss of fields, grazing landPerennially-watered areas dedicated to cash crops, commercial productionWater flow rarely equableConstruction and maintenance highly political, even for small facilitiesHigh degree of elite investmentChanges in taxation associated with new facilities
20 Bhakra-Nangal: human costs 50 years later, displaced people still not fully resettledOnly landed compensatedLoss of soil fertility means crops cannot be grown without chemical fertilizersSubsistence farming no longer possibleRural indebtednessFarmer suicides1/3th of Bilasapur district population displaced. Displaced scorned as Bilasapuris; 2006 HP initiative to help displaced.
21 Problems with Large Dams Safety and Public Health IssuesVectors for water-borne diseasesDanger of catastrophic dam failureRampant corruptionExcessive siltation
22 Area watered by both Middle period and Tungabhadra project reservoirs Expansion of malaria into this semi-arid region by 19th century, if not beforeMore recently, also dengue and chikkungunya as wellMosquito-borne
23 Middle Period Southern India: dam failure Daroji reservoir, built 16th c.Still in useIn 1851, the Daroji reservoir breached, flooding and destroying Daroji village and killing several peopleVirtually every one of the hundreds of dams studied has breachedDates of Middle period
24 Breach in the Moolathara Dam near Chittur in Palakkad district of Kerala. (The Hindu, Nov. 11, 2009)
25 Cultural Logics of Reservoirs in India: Continuity & Change Reservoirs have special religious valence“dams are the temples of India, where I worship”Reservoirs have long been associated with political power and legitimate ruleSouth Asian cultural logics of reservoir patronage and legitimate rule established in Middle period
26 Alternatives?Analysis of older dams and reservoirs shows that many problems are intrinsic to these facilitiesLarge dams have always been power-laden technologies, with unequal benefits and risksSmaller-scale facilities can work, but require significant attention to watershed protection and equal accessCattle-power has been largely replacedby electric pumps15th century canal still in use
27 Discussion Critiques of large dams and reservoirs Problems of these kinds of facilities are not uniqueVision of Sustainable alternativesNeed more realistic sense of “traditional” facilitiesExisting system as “facts on the ground”Specific cultural contexts matter for both the past and presentCultural logics of reservoir patronage in South AsiaDams as signs of modernity and progress, “big science”Erosion near Bhadra reservoir
28 Colonial Reservoirs Pattern of failure and low productivity continued Rhetoric of a previous golden age when tanks all in use and in better repairMosse: British saw problems as a failure of traditional village institutions, not as consequence of colonial disruptions of political relationsParallel to “new traditionalists”Same arguments used in Middle periods, logic of restorationComplex variety of arrangements for control and maintenance of reservoirs
29 What was the appeal? Political economy of prestation Gift-giving sign of legitimate ruleReservoirs: smaller “package size” and resource mix than gifts of canals, temples, villagesInscriptional analysis: Dual pattern of patronagePilgrimage Centers: Temples pool giftsUrban Hinterland: Nayakas primary patrons
30 Cultural logic of Reservoirs: the Middle Periods Special religious merit associated with the construction of a reservoirThe “Sevenfold Progeny”Associations with templesReservoirs evoke the Eternal OceanSnakes, makaras, elephants, lotusesAesthetic of greenery, water, fertilityAssociated with power and order, political and gender-based
31 British India: Emergence of the “Imperial Tank” Destructive potential of reservoirs of interest from beginningCategory of “protective” vs. “productive” worksImperial TanksBreach may threaten railwaysMadras Presidency5 in87 inReservoirs have always been power-laden technologiesProtective: flood and famine. Not just productivity itself but also jobs in construction during times of famine.
32 The “New Traditionalist” Position Traditional irrigation was sustainable and non-exploitativeTraditional facilities are small-scaleTraditional facilities worked well and are sustainableRepresent a “lost wisdom”Traditional facilities were community-managedNot associated with power or exploitationThe cultural logics of traditional irrigation differ from those of contemporary projectsLatter are Western/Modern, former are Indigenous/Traditional
33 New Traditionalism: False Dichotomies Modern Traditionalecological transformationfailureinequalitystate poweroppressionmonumentalsustainabilityproductivityequitylocal controloutside of politicssmall
34 Environmental and Human Costs of Reservoirs: Old & New Modern dams and traditional tanks not different in kindFaced many of the same problemsTransformed environmentsAssociated with resource inequalityHigh rates of failureScalar differences do exist but old does not mean smallSeasonality of supply probably more critical
35 Discussion & Prospects Romantic image of traditional irrigation detracts from legitimate critique of modern projectsLong-term historical analysis can lay foundation for realistic assessment of the possibilities of tank regeneration programsContemporary rhetoric on dam-building in India takes from both western and Indian tropesAlready in place, much environmental transformation has already happened