ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Irrigation Debate-An Intervention

The Irrigation Debate An Intervention Jasveen Jairath OF late a fierce debate on the question of irrigation has been going on in the country ranging from activist forums to popular media right through to academic circles. Stimulated by the popular opposition to Narmada Valley Project the debate has typically assumed the form of taking positions on the question of large surface irrigation projects in relation to small/medium/ underground irrigation schemes. Apparently dealing with technical and specialist matters, the debate has forced issues of a much broader and fundamental nature to the fore, albeit quite unconsciously. The pertinent point about the debate is not so much the particular positions taken as the rationale underlying the respective positions. Essentially it reflects a clash of two distinct viewpoints on the question of development as such. This is explicitly acknowledged by those critical of the installation of large dams, who argue that an irrigation policy as above, has to be viewed in the context of an overall strategy of development which is alienated from and superimposed on the people whom it seeks to develope. It is not the material or ecological consequences associated with large dams that they attack per se. Their critique rather derives primarily from the social context of the creation and use of large dams which they argue results in peculiar techno-economic consequences. Perforce the tendency of this camp is to widen the terms of debate and discussion. In contrast the focus of proponents of large dams policy typically remains rather narrow and technocratic.

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