These actions led to an unprecedented independent review of the dam by the World Bank, which concluded, in 1991, that the project was ill-conceived. Unable to meet the Bank’s environmental and resettlement guidelines, the Indian government canceled the final installment of the World Bank’s $450 million loan. In 1993, Patkar and the other activists forced the central government to conduct a review of all aspects of the project. Meanwhile, the sluice gates to the dam were closed in 1993, in defiance of court orders, and water was impounded behind the dam.
In May 1994, NBA took the case to stop the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to India’s Supreme Court. In January 1995, the Court put a stay on further construction of the half-built dam and has tried to forge consensus between the central and state governments. While state governments continue to push for an increase in the height of the dam, displaced tribal residents carry on with mass protests. Patkar continued to defy the project and, in 1996, was again arrested.
The NBA has also been working to obtain just compensation for people affected by dams that have already been built on the Narmada. In 1997, the NBA helped tribal communities stop construction of the Upper Veda and Lower Goin dams. Another focus of the NBA’s work has been the Maheshwar Dam. A number of huge rallies and dam site occupations forced a halt to major work on this project and led the state government to establish an independent task force to review the dam.
As an outgrowth of her work to stop dam construction, Patkar has helped establish a network of activists across the country—the National Alliance of People’s Movements.
Learn more about the Narmada: Friends of the Narmada