India’s Supreme Court has allowed construction of the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP) to its design height, in a two to one judgement. After the ruling on 18 October, work resumed on 31 October while thousands celebrated the victory and the resumption of work.
Construction of the US$4.5B project was blocked for more than four years by court cases and activists who protested about the displacement of thousands of villagers due to the reservoir. Activist groups led by Narmada Bachao Andolan were supported by international anti-dam organisations like the US-based International Rivers Network (IRN).
Anti-dam activists have denounced the ruling as a violation of the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable sections of society and have vowed to continue their fight. Patrick McCully, campaigns director of IRN said the ruling was illogical and an insult to democracy and justice.
Critics say about 40,000 people in 248 villages would be displaced by the reservoir, of whom only 10,000 have been resettled. Authorities maintain the dam would bring drinking water to 40M people, irrigate arid land and generate electricity.
The Supreme Court ruling said that the height of the dam could be raised to 90m, from the current 88m. Government approval will be required for staged construction up to 138m. The project includes a 1200MW underground river bed power house and a canal bed power house of 250MW.