Large dams not an answer to water shortage

  • 30/08/2006

Large dams not an answer to water shortage It's that season again: when the prime minister, the Union and state ministers for agriculture and water resources, the Planning Commission, the World Bank and others busy themselves in finding a panacea for agriculture's ills. In fact, they do have a surefire solution: increase water storage capacities through large dams.

This advocacy has assumed fundamentalist proportions of late, spurred on by the World Bank's 2005 report: India's Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future. But many questions have not even been asked. What are the options for water storage? How does one choose the best among them? Who makes the choice? What has been the experience with large water storages created at enormous costs? Have they delivered on their promises? Can we do anything to get them to perform better?

The Central Water Commission monitors a mere 76 of the over 4,000 large water storages, regularly.The agency's bulletins throw some light on the performance of these reservoirs. The information available for the last 12 years (1994 to 2005) reveals:

On an average, every year, 36.25 billion cubic metres (bcm, equivalent to 7.7 Sardar Sarovar Projects) of live storage capacity isn't filled

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