General Studies IIDevelopment Processes

Narmada Bachao Andolan


  • Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is an Indian social movement spearheaded by native tribals (adivasis), farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against a number of large dam projects across the Narmada River, which flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on the river and was one of the first focal points of the movement.
  • It is part of the Narmada Dam Project, whose main aim is to provide irrigation and electricity to people of the above states.
  • The mode of campaign under NBA includes court actions, hunger strikes, rallies and gathering support from notable film and art personalities. The NBA, with its leading spokespersons Medha Patkar and Baba Amte, received the Right Livelihood Award in 1991.

Protests and challenges

Narmada Bachao Andolan
Medha Patkar
Medha Patkar

The Sardar Sarovar Dam project has been the subject of much controversy for decades. The project has faced much opposition since its inauguration in 1961. The main opposition was by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar. Medha Patkar first visited the site of the dam in 1985. Citing environmental and rehabilitation issues, the NBA activists obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court in 1996. They argued that the dam did not follow the required environmental and social conditions as meted out by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. So, they wanted to cut the funding for the project from the World Bank. NBA organized several mass protests against the project which garnered international attention. The cause of NBA was also supported by other notable figures like Baba Amte, Arundhati Roy etc.

Subsequently, bowing to the pressure, the World Bank commissioned panel was set up to review the project. After finding that inadequate assessment had been made by the Indian government and the World Bank, the loan authorised by the World Bank was cancelled in 1993.

After years of deliberation, the dam construction activity was given a green signal by the Supreme Court provided all those project-affected-people (PAP) are satisfactorily rehabilitated and that the process be repeated for every five metres increase in height.

Another challenge faced by the project was the dispute between three states- Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh over the issue of distribution of Narmada water. To resolve this issue, a Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) was created in 1969. After studying the various reports, the NWDT pronounced its verdict in 1979. According to the verdict, the 35 billion cubic metres of water would be made available for consumption from the dam. Out of the three states, Madhya Pradesh would receive 65% of it, while Gujarat will receive 32% and Rajasthan and Maharashtra would be eligible for the remaining 3%.

Narmada River

  • Narmada is the largest west flowing river of the peninsular region flowing through a rift valley between the Vindhya Range on the north and the Satpura Range on the south.
  • It rises from Maikala range near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh.
  • It drains a large area in Madhya Pradesh besides some areas in the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • The river near Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) forms the DhuanDhar Falls.
  • There are several islands in the estuary of the Narmada of which Aliabet is the largest.
  • Major Tributaries: Hiran, Orsang, the Barna and the Kolar.
  • The major Hydro Power Projects in the basin are Indira Sagar, Sardar Sarovar etc.


Sardar Sarovar Dam

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