Development and Environment: Sustainable development the answer

Author: Anshu Bansal, Research Associate

The idea of sustainability can imply there is one perfect, unchanging future, if only we could work out how to get there. Resilience might be more useful, in that it assumes a dynamic environment and that perfection is impossible. You need to design systems to accommodate failure rather than eliminate it ((Jamais Cascio, writer and ethical futurist (article in ‘Green Futures’, January 2010).)).

The tussle between development and environment is not a new thing to ponder upon but in the recent years, it became one of the most debated topics in the world. It would be incorrect to read Development and environment in isolation rather both of them are two sides of the same coin. One evident example is constitution of India. Although the Constitution of India does not explicitly conceptualize the inter-relationship between environment and development but a perusal of the ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ and ‘Fundamental Duties’ incorporated in it reveals that, it (the Constitution) has not only outlined possible directions of development but also ensured protection and improvement of environment ((Vibhute, K. I.,Environment, Development and the Law: The Indian Perspective, 7 J. Envtl. L. 137)). Through Articles 48A and 51A (g) it also lays down the foundation of sustainable development by outlining a blueprint of social and economic betterment, and at the same time, by providing for protection and improvement of environment ((Id.)). Hence, over a period of time, the trend shifted from ‘environment vs. development’ to ‘development and environment’.

The United Nations, through its Conference on the Human Environment held at Stockholm in 1972, realized the need to protect and improve the human environment for the well-being of peoples, and economic development throughout the world ((Proclaim 2, Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, Stockholm, (5-16 June 1972).)). More recently, the World Commission on Environment and Development, headed by Gro Horlem Brundtland, and the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, have drawn the attention of the international community to the critical relationship between environment and development and have, in fact, given a global perspective of environmentally compatible development ((Supra note 2.)). The Rio Declaration contemplates a ‘sustainable development’ ((The term ‘sustainable development’ was first used in 1987 by the World Commission on Environment and Development (popularly known as the Brundtland Commission) to denote that development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.)). It proclaims that the right to development must be equitable to the developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations ((Principle3, For an excellent discussion on our duty to future generations to preserve the global environment, see Agora, ‘What Obligations does our Generation owe to the next? An Approach to Global Environmental Responsibility’, 84 AJIL 191 (1990).)). It insists that environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process ((Principle 4, Rio Declaration.)). At the international level, 1992 was a vibrant year as environmental concern, the conservation strategy and policy statement on environment and development were presented ((Nayyar, K. R,  Politics of sustainable Development, Economic and political weekly, (28th May, 1994).)).

Importance of development and environment

Development implies the transformation and distribution of economic resources in favour of a socially and economically underdeveloped segment of society or region ((Supra note 2.)).  In order to understand the necessity for development let us take an example. Various reports shows that the majority of  the population from sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and part of Latin America are living on less than $2.50 a day ((Available at These countries would be able to grow and compete with the developed countries only when they start producing large numbers of goods and services and engage in trade. Setting up of industries would not only bring more jobs in the developing countries but would also pump money into the economy. Without development it won’t be possible for these countries to match up with the need, want and desire of people of the nation. Hence, development is indeed important for a country to justify its existence.

On the other hand, protection of Environment is also necessary for our survival. Environmentalists are of the view that in order to preserve the earth for our children and grandchildren, it is high time that we can afford to neglect environment. The most important issues facing our environment right now are the depletion of ozone layer, global warming and the subsequent rising sea levels caused by the rapid melting of glaciers. It is reasonably well-accepted that the environment is important for the enjoyment of human rights, and that a healthy environment is instrumental in the fulfilment of human rights such as the rights to health, water, food and housing ((Lewis Bridget, Environmental rights or a right to Environment: Exploring the nexus between Human Rights and environmental protection, 8 Macquqrie J. Int’l and Comp. Envtl. L. 36 (2012).)).

Creating the balance: sustainable development

Man is both the creature and moulders of his environment, which gives him physical sustenance and affords him the opportunity for intellectual, moral, social and spiritual growth ((Preamble to the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, 1972 (Stockholm Declaration).)). The question has also arisen whether the right to environment is inconsistent with the right to development. To answer this it must be noted that these rights are not unlimited; rather they should be regarded as mutually reinforcing ((Atapattu, Sumudu , Right to a Healthy Life or the Right to Die Polluted: The Emergence of a Human Right to a Healthy Environment under International Law ,16 Tul. Envtl. L.J. 65 (2002-2003).)). Unfortunately, Humans are defined as a recent addition to the livestock and are considered to have been a wholly disruptive influence on a world which was paradise before their arrival ((Id.)).

In Indian context, after independence, it was felt that it is of prime importance to improve upon certain area in order to provide basic minimum necessity to the masses including irrigation facilities, water supply, and electricity generation. In the process, mountains and forest region underwent massive upheaval. Many of the dams constructed in ecological fragile areas caused considerable damage to the soil. As a result, people started to protest and hence, the two famous movements which come into light are Chipko Andolan and Narmada Bachao Andolan.

In order to the reach the goal of sustainable development we need to go for better development strategy. Some of them are steps switching from non-renewable to renewable sources of energy and materials, targeting cleaner production, maximising recycling and reuse of wastes and environmentally sound product design. Political India needs to learn the virtues of good environmental governance, which limits exploitation of natural resources to sustainable levels ((Available at Population size and growth and related consumption patterns are critical elements in the many environmental degradation and social problems we currently face. The population issue should be urgently addressed by education and empowerment of women ((Environment and  Development Challenges:  The Imperative to Act (20 February 2012) available at In order to realise our dream of a more sustainable world there is a need to understand the triple interdependence of economic, social and environmental factors and integrate them into decision-making in governments and the private sector ((Id.)).

Our people have a right to economic and social development and to discard the ignominy of widespread poverty. For this, we need rapid economic growth. However, I also believe that ecologically sustainable development need not be in contradiction to achieving our growth objectives. In fact, we must have a broader perspective on development. It must include the quality of life, not merely the quantitative accretion of goods and services. Our people want higher standards of living, but they also want clean water to drink, fresh air to breathe and a green earth to walk on” ((Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh during the released India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change in New Delhi, available at In addition, Taking note of the magnitude of the disaster in Uttarakhand, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has summoned the Ministry of Environment and Forest and the state government, to give details of upcoming projects pending clearance in the state and their ecological and environmental impact ((Uttarakhand floods: Green tribunal notice to MoEF, Hindustan Times, New Delhi (July 03, 2013).)). It’s clear that the devastation caused by the flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand was at least in part due to environmental degradation of fragile mountain slopes and reckless commercialization


It will be over ambitious to state that we can completely stop environmental damage but at least we can counter the negative influence of development on the environment. In theory, development that is sustainable and not damaging to the planet is very much possible but in practice there are a lot of politics and challenges involved. By taking positive steps like resurrecting the loss due to deforestation, activity by planting more and more trees will give fruitful result.

Compared to developed nations, India is much more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their low capacity to adapt and their disproportionate dependency on natural resources for welfare ((Available at In such a scenario, Going for green growth is one option. Green growth can be defined as “fostering economic growth and development, while ensuring that natural assets continue to provide the resources and environmental services on which our well-being relies” ((Id.)). Alternatively strategic climate/ environment policies should not be framed as a choice between the environment and economic development, but rather as a choice between effective measures to achieve balance between the two dimensions ((Antony Gnanamuthu, Environment vs development: India’s policy dilemmas? (Jun 07, 2013).)). It is rightly said that “Natural resources like air, water, forest, vegetation etc., are of great importance to the people as a whole and should not be subjected to private ownership or commercialisation, when public interest suffers a greater damage due to over exploitation of the nature. Lastly, Laws of Nature have to respected and for the benefit of people and human race require observation and compliance” ((Text of 18 September 2009 order of the High Court of Delhi related to the environment clearance of M/s JSW Energy (Ratnagiri) Ltd.)).

Water politics: Narmada Bachao Andolan vs. Union of India and others

Narmada Bachao Andolan vs. Union of India and others

Author: Regina Menachery Paulose

In 2000, the Indian Supreme Court made a decision that would allow “progress” to plunder and pillage the homes of the indigenous populations in India ((See  Anjana Chatterji’s Op Ed “India Harsud Lost” in Asian Age, August 18, 2004, where stories illustrate the magnitude of resettlement in the name of Narmada. )). The decision was carefully deliberated upon and a myriad of factors were used by the Court to come to its conclusion. Among the chief factor, as this article suggests, is the idea that “green projects,” such as hydroelectric power helps society in a beneficial way. Although this theory is partially correct, there are devastating consequences to energy projects that do not take into account the rights and well-being of the people. This article focuses on the controversial the Narmada decision and the impact that it has had on the human rights of the indigenous populations since 2000.


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In the late 1940’s, shortly after India declared independence, government authorities began investigating potential uses of the Narmada River ((Narmada Bachao Andolan. v. Union of India, Writ of Petition (C) No. 319 of 1994, 2000 p.1)), the fifth largest river in India ((Id at 1)). A Commission study concluded in 1955 that the Narmada Basin had, “hydroelectric potential ((Id at 2)).” In 1961, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ((Nehru was the first prime minister of India. Under his direction, he encouraged the development of science and technology, which lead to a sizeable growth in agricultural and industrial production. “Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 – 1964) Biography” ASIABIOGRAPHY)) inaugurated the Narmada Project and construction began under the direction of the newly formed Gujarat state government ((Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, Writ of Petition (C) No. 319 of 1994, 2000  p.2)).

The largest and most contentious among the thirty dams planned to be built along the Narmada by the Indian government, was the Sardar Sarovar dam ((Friends of the Naramda, “Sardar Sarovar )). Starting in the late 1960’s, the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) was the central problem between the states of Gujurat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharastra over the, “use, distribution, and control of the waters.” ((Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, Writ of Petition (C) No. 319 of 1994, 2000 p.5)) As a result of this dispute, the Supreme Court of India created the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) to settle conflicting claims of the states over sharing the river water, cost of rehabilitating displaced people, and the height of the dam. ((Id at 5-6)) The SSP is now operated as a, “multipurpose, interstate,” project being implemented by the governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan. ((Habitat International Coalition, “The Impact of the 2002 Submergence on Housing and Land Rights in the Narmada Valley” p.8))

In 1978 India solicited the World Bank for a loan to finance the Narmada project. ((Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, Writ of Petition (C) No. 319 of 1994, 2000 p.12)) In response, the World Bank sent out a team of inspectors to visit the project site ((ID at 12))and in 1985 the Bank approved four hundred and fifty million-dollars in loans for the project. ((Arundhati Roy, Power Politics,“The Reincarnation of Rumpelstilskin” (2001).  72-73)) Two years later, the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests authorized clearance for construction under certain conditions. ((Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, Writ of Petition (C) No. 319 of 1994, 2000 p.12)) Among those conditions were, “detailed surveys/studies,” completed field surveys, and rehabilitation plans to be drawn out ahead of reservoir filling. ((Id 12-13)) Construction of the dam began in 1987 and a human rights catastrophe was created. ((Id at 14))

Narmada Bachao Andolan AND PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) was founded in 1986 and is a movement formed in the states that are affected by hydro power development. ((Id. This group was formed by Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, who received awards for their work. See also Friends of the River Narmada, a support group for the NBA))The Narmada Bachao Andolan, through a series of protests and non violent strategies, brought international attention to the SSP. ((Id)) As a result of the Narmada Bachao Andolan’s protests the World Bank quickly started to pay attention to the SSP ((Id)) and began to investigate the impact of the SSP beginning in 1991. ((Id and Berger, Thomas “The World Bank’s Independent Review of India’s Sardar Sarovar Project” American University Journal of International Law and Policy. (1993).))The World Bank set up an Independent Review Panel (IRP) which was given a twofold mandate; to assess the measures taken to “resettle and rehabilitate” people who were affected by the project and to “evaluate measures” designed to ameliorate the impact of the dam on the environment. ((Berger, p. 35.))

The IRP found a history of non-compliance with the conditions set forth in the loan agreements with the Bank, and that “no proper data and assessments” had been created to allow the IRP to develop “effective ameliorative measures.” ((Id at 43))The IRP concluded, “unless a project can be carried out in accordance with existing norms of human rights and environmental protection, norms espoused and endorsed by both the World Bank and borrower countries [should] not to proceed.” ((Id at 48))As a result of the investigation, in 1993 the Board heeded the assessments and withdrew from the project. ((“World Bank to cancel loan to Narmada Dam in India: EDF calls World Bank environmental and social record dismal” Business Wire, March 30, 1993.))However, the Indian government continued with construction.

In 1994 the Narmada Bachao Andolan petitioned the Supreme Court of India for relief. ((The 1994 Writ of Petition is what resulted in the 2000 Judgment by the Indian Supreme Court.))The petitioners sought the Court’s guidance for, “some independent judicial authority to review the entire project, and examine the current best estimates of all costs (social, environmental, financial), benefits and alternatives in order to determine whether the project is required in its present form in the national interest or whether it needs to be restructured or modified.” ((Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, 2000 SOL Case No.319 of 1994 p.17))The Narmada Bachao Andolan requested a “comprehensive review of the project” and an injunction to prevent further construction until the review was completed. ((Id at 17))


In 2000, the Court cleared construction for the Narmada project to continue. The main legal basis of the judgment was premised on the doctrine of latches. ((Id at 18))The Court, in its majority opinion, articulated that while the “anti-dam” organization had been in existence since 1986, “it [chose] to challenge ((It should be noted that the NBA was proactive prior to the 1994 petition.   The Court mentioned earlier in its opinion that in 1990, Dr. B.D. Sharma wrote a letter to the Court asking for rehabilitation of the oustees. The Court “entertained” and treated the writ under article 32 of the Constitution being Writ Petition 1201 of 1990. (Id at 14).)) the clearance given in 1987 by filing a writ petition in 1994.” ((Id at 18))The Court stated that the Narmada Bachao Andolan has been “agitating” against construction of the dam since 1986, but that “having failed in its attempt to stall the project the petitioner has resorted to court proceedings by filling this writ long after environmental clearance was given and construction started.” ((Id at 19))The majority opined, “this Court has entertained this petition with a view to satisfy itself that there is proper implementation of the relief and rehabilitation measures.” The Court had only “entertained” the petition because of the Court’s concern for the “protection of fundamental rights of the oustees.” ((Id at 19))

The doctrine of latches, similar to that of the statute of limitations in the United States, allows for finality in decisions and claims to be brought. The Court held “it is against the national interest and contrary to established principles of law that decisions to undertake developmental projects are permitted to be challenged after a number of years during which period public money has been spent in execution of the project.” ((Id at 18-19)) Prior to this decision, the Court has overruled latches before to accommodate humanitarian emergencies. ((In Kaur v. State of Punjab, the Court allowed the Commission to investigate human rights abuses that took place in Punjab although the statute called for claims to be brought within one year.))

A closer examination of Article 32 of the Indian Constitution reveals that the Supreme Court has the broad power to issue writs, petitions, or whatever tool may be appropriate to enforce fundamental rights. ((Indian Constitution Part III Article 32 subsection 2 )) The Article also guarantees that one may petition the Court to enforce these rights. ((Id subsection 1))With such sweeping power to enforce rights, the Court should have offered a better reason to deny petitioners their claim, especially because of the catastrophe that has been created because of inadequate rehabilitation. The Court once espoused,

“Fundamental Rights, contained in Part III of the Constitution of India, represent the basic human rights possessed by every human being in this world inhabited by people of different continents, countries, castes, colours and religions. The country, the colour and the religion may have divided them into different groups but as human beings, they are all one and possess the same rights.” ((Kaur v. State of Punjab, 1998 SOL Case No. 524))

All parties in this matter failed to also recognize relevant protections under two large international treaties. In 1979 India ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). ((Australian Commission on Human Rights, “Human Rights Explained“))These treaties both embody the principles set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the framework the World Commission on Dams used for its report on the utility and use of dams. ((World Commission on Dams, p. xxxiii))

The ICESCR protects the right to adequate housing. The right to adequate housing encompasses the right to security of tenure; essential services such as water, sanitation; affordability; access to means of livelihood; protected from forced eviction; community identity; non-discrimination; protection from arbitrariness. ((Habitat International Coalition (HIC), “The Impact of the 2002 Submergence on Housing and Land Rights in the Narmada Valley”  p.6))The U.N. Commission on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights has stated that evictions should not result in rendering people homeless or vulnerable to violations of other human rights. ((HIC at 6, quoting from General Comment 7; para 3 and 7 UN Commission on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.))International treaty obligations aside, the World Bank’s loan policies obligate India to protect human rights under the “Involuntary Resettlement Policy.” ((HIC at 7, quoting World Bank memo for Mr. Shhata to Joseph Wood (March 20, 1993) OMS 2.33 Issued February 1980 discussing §6.06 of the General conditions applicable to all World Bank loans))

Perhaps the application of the ICCPR, ICESCR, and Involuntary Resettlement Policy, would have provided for a fair evaluation of rights in this situation given India’s treaty obligations.


Twelve years after the controversial decision was handed down by the Indian Supreme Court there are situations that continue to highlight the impact of the Court’s decision on the people who are affected by these development projects. Some of these impacts include ineffective resettlement packages that are offered to those who are displaced, the abolition of protections for tribal peoples, and the annihilation of the indigenous tribes who lived along the Narmada and sustain themselves on the Narmada.

Corruption among state governments and within the rehabilitation process is festering and rampant. After the 2000 decision, less than a month later, corruption started becoming exposed on all levels of government. ((No Land for Oustees: People Protest Against Unjust Submergence and Displacement.” NBA Press Release, November 8, 2000. )) As recently as of August 2008 the Madhya Pradesh High Court ordered the State of Madhya Pradesh to properly rehabilitate approximately 974 houses of 46 villages which were arbitrarily left off the list to be compensated and rehabilitated. ((“Madhya Pradesh High Court orders acquisition of 974 excluded houses: GRA confirms that houses in Gov’t surveys were arbitrarily excluded.” NBA Press Release, August 7, 2008))The Court followed up its decision with a recent ruling to inspect the fake rehabilitation registries and potential money laundering. ((“Jabalpur High Court Gives Final Order on Case Regarding Corruption in Sardar Sarovar Rehabilitation.” NBA Press Release, August 21, 2008.))In the twenty five years of “development” this is one of multiple incidences that the people have requested Courts to intervene. ((“CBI Arrests Rehabilitation Officer for Narmada Projects Red-Handed accepting Bribe.” NAB Press Release July 16, 2008.))

The 2000 decision has also destroyed tribal self-governance policies put into place on a national level. The Tribal Self Rule Law is codified in the Indian Constitution under Article 342. ((Sanjay Upadhyay, “Tribal Self Rule Law and Common Property Resources in Scheduled Areas of India: A new Paradigm Shift or Another Ineffective Stop?” August 2004))The amendment gives the 532 scheduled tribes in India the right to self governance because of special customs and lifestyles that are distinct from general agrarian communities throughout India. ((Id))The State of Madhya Pradesh, one of the key states as mentioned above in the development of the SSP, has the largest tribal population in the country. ((Id))The Tribal Self Rule Law calls for “consultation before land acquisition for development projects and before resettling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects.” ((Id))It is evident that “forest based resources are one of the most significant resource for tribal people in India.” ((Id))Among the people who actually make it on to the list and receive land, the land is generally found to be inadequate and uncultivable. ((Human Rights Experts Express Concern About Impact of Raising Height of Dam in Narmada River, India” United Nations Press Release, April 13, 2006.))Water release schedules from the dam have made agriculture a thing of the past and unemployment a state of the future. ((See generally Lyla Bavadam, “Narmada’s Revenge” Frontline Magazine, May 6, 2005. Volume 22 Issue 09.))It is evident that the Indian government, the Court, and other parties affiliated with the SSP and other dam projects throughout India have neglected to follow the law with regards to the Tribal Self Rule Law. It is evident from projects such as the SSP that even amendments to the Indian Constitution have no bearing with regards to people’s right or liberties.

In March 2008, the Supreme Court of India was called upon again to take action with regards to the rehabilitation and resettlement packages. ((“Supreme Court Hears Sardar Sarovar Case” NBA Press Release, March 10, 2008))Struggling to find resolution, the Narmada Bachao Andolan continues to garner domestic and international attention with non-violent protests and legal claims in order to make their voices heard. ((“Adivasi Applicant To Pursue Complaint with Appropriate Legal For Full Justice” NBA Press Release, January 3, 2010))

Of course, the most obvious issue that this decision has created is the enormous human rights violations that continue to occur in the status quo. In April 2005, many oustees died when the Government released water from the dams, causing floods to sweep people in to the waters of the Narmada. ((Lyla Bavadam, “Narmada’s Revenge” Frontline Magazine,( May 6, 2005) Vol 22 Issue 09.))In 2008, thousands had been evacuated because of water breaches in the water carrying canal of the SSP. ((Thousands Evacuated” The Hindu, June 12, 2008 ))As of 2012, the bells rang again, as the alerts went off warning low laying villages to evacuate the areas because the rise in water levels were set to be broken. ((The Times of India, “Flood Alert in 55 Villages Near Dam” (August 8, 2012), available))While many are without homes, food, and work; there are those that continue to suffer at an enormous expense because of development. Not surprisingly, this past summer, Government authorities came “down heavily” on farmers who were using water to irrigate their lands, because there was a water shortage. ((Vadadora, “Narmada Dam Overflows Again” The Indian Express, (August 23, 2012), ))Tragically the overflowing dam is being seen as nothing more than a “tourist” spectacle, instead of a humanitarian catastrophe. ((Vadadora, “Villagers throng Narmada dam site, land in through a Modi fare,” The Indian Express, (August 12, 2012), ))

The controversy regarding the Narmada did not die in 2000. In the most recent civil appeals decision that was decided in 2011, the Court dealt another blow to the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The Narmada Bachao Andolan challenged another project along the Narmada River, the Omkareshwar Dam. ((NBA v. State of MP, Civil Appeals No. 2115-2116 of 200, November 5, 2011))The petition alleged that the rehabilitation policies were not adequately meeting the needs of the displaced people. The Court responded by notifying the Narmada Bachao Andolan that in this particular instance that they did not plead with particularity the claims they were bringing before the Court. “Pleadings and particulars are required to enable court to decide the rights of the parties at trial.” ((Id at 9))The Court then made its favorite argument, once again accusing the Narmada Bachao Andolan of delay and violating laches doctrine. ((Id))While the Court did acknowledge the importance of tribal rights, it merely reiterated the fact that individuals can file their grievances, but generalized petitions do not allow the Court to take action. ((Id. It should be noted that the Court also mentions that the rehabilitation policies had been amended in 2003 to give agricultural land “as far as possible” and those who did not file a petition to receive land would automatically receive settlement money in to their accounts. Id at E.))

India’s decision in Narmada Bachao Andolan foreshadows the coming of “water hegemony” that India is asserting over others, even at the expense of its own people. ((Khalid Iqbal, “India’s Water Hegemony” (July 12, 2011),  This situation is not only unique to India, see Julie Trottier, “Water Wars: The Rise of a Hegemonic Concept”))It is clear that international law, domestic Constitutions, and even global treaties such as the Indus Waters Basin, will have no affect if the world community does not step up to help the tribal people of India gain access to their lands. The World Bank has even continued to cede to India’s request for developing hydropower, despite the impact these projects have upon the people. ((World Bank,  “India’s Hydropower Development” (March 23, 2012),))If the world community is not careful to voice their opinions on these particular conditions, India’s “water hegemony” could have serious implications for other populations near India. ((See India violating Indus Basin Treaty: PMKM” Pakistan Associate Press, July 12, 2011. )) Although it has been twelve years since the day the Supreme Court decided on the Narmada decision, the Narmada River has continued to create a nightmare for those who live by the river. In September 2012, the Sardar Sarovar overflowed, reaching its highest point since 2006. ((Harish Joshi, “Narmada Dam Overflow Highest in Seven Years” The Times of India, (September 6, 2012),))In typical fashion, an “alert” was issued asking residence to move to safer ground. ((Id, “alerts” are typically alarm bells that ring. See Shastri, Lalit, “Alarm Bell Starts Ringing in Harsud” The Hindu, July 11, 2004.))

In a region already full of potential nuclear strife, a fight over such a dwindling natural resource could cause greater instability. “Build a dam to take water away from 40 million people. Build a dam and pretend to bring water to 40 million people. Who are these gods that govern us? Is there no limit to their powers?” ((Arundhati Roy, The Greater Common Good,  April 1999, ))

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