DAMS – THE LIFE LINE OF A COUNTRY
Water management is essential not only for the development but for the very existence of the people. It is because of non realization of this that in many developing countries floods and drought go side by side. In the year 2000 in certain areas of Gujarat water was to be transported by trains while certain areas of Orissa and West Bengal were reeling under floods. In certain areas of Bihar it rains heavily during monsoon. But immediately after the rainy season the farmer finds his fields dry. It just means that it is essential to store the water for future use .One may just be helpless for the floods. But these too can be controlled to some extend if the river is channeled towards big dams.
Thus both for future use and for partially checking the floods big dams are necessary. For utilizing the rain water in sloppy areas like that of Bihar small dams are a must. It is rather exulting that while we had only 300 dams in 1947 we have 4300 big and small ones today. Thus the dam consciousness is gaining ground. During the last three centuries water requirement has increased 35 times. The annual consumption now is 3,400 cubic kilometers 69 per cent is used for agriculture, 23 per cent for industries and 8 per cent for domestic use. In developing countries like India 86 per cent is used for agriculture. To some it may look strange but the oceans have 97 % of the total water on the earth. Nature evaporates this water and supplies it to the world through rains. But it may not supply it when, how much and where we need it. It is here that water management through big reservoirs is necessary. Naturally we have 45,000 dams in the world. But we may require some 30,000 more by the end of the century.
The world population is expected to be 8.9 billion by 2050. Global food grain demand may increase 37 per cent. Besides this for improving the general quality of life and for food production we require more energy .Economic growth means higher power consumption. Stocks of coal and oil in the earth being limited we have to shift to wind, wave, solar and hydro sources for 50 per cent of our power need. Hydro power being the cheapest we should have dams to generate it. For better life style more electricity is required. Besides it is essential that the tribal belt that depends on wood as fuel and from where trees are cut for other uses an alternative is to be found. Electricity through water management in their own area is the answer. They can have small hydro plants for power generation.
There is a notion that big dams create ecological problems. Medha Patkar is the most vociferous in this direction. She, for years together opposed the Sardar Sarovar Dam project. In October 2000 it was settled by the Supreme Court that the construction should go on. The court in its judgment wrote that construction of “big dams cannot be equated with setting up of polluting industries as far as their effect on the environment is concerned. What is being constructed is a large dam. It is neither a nuclear establishment nor a polluting industry. The construction of a dam would undoubtly result in the change of environment but it will not be correct to presume that it will result in ecological disasters”.