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

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World Commission on Dams

Biased If Misread


Being requested by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) I wrote the options part of the India Country Study. Till late 1999 I had never thought of being caught up in the WCD process. Along with many others all over the world, willing to hear that a solution is reached in an intense debate of everyone’s concern, I watched the formation of the World Commission on Dams with interest. But I could not say ‘no’ when the WCD asked me to make an honest assessment of ‘options’. I am not committed to either pro-dam or anti-dam position. I have written against specific dams, against specific aspects of dams, and also that I am not against dams in general. Some of the water appropriation systems I wrote about in the 1970s and 1980s (e g, Sengupta, 1985) were later characterised by anti-dam activists as ‘options to dams’. I did not depict them as such. How could I have done that knowing that a great many of the classified ‘large dams’ in India are not even 15m in height, and are indeed, parts of the structures that are being described as ‘options’ to dams. The option that I have suggested in the WCD Report is not antidam but against single minded pursuit of dams. Use all five fingers instead of one.

– that was my recommendation ( ) If a careful selection is made, in some setting a network of small storage may be suitable, in another only a large dam, and in a third a mixture of the two. It is then expected that in suitable setting, each one will perform better than the others; only the better performing units will then portray a good performance for each of these technologies. Providing level playing ground for other opportunities will only help large dam technology perform better. …

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