Executive directors do not heed independent review

The damming of the Narmada River in western India has proven to be a highly controversial undertaking. The ongoing construction of Sardar Sarovar, the first dam of what will be one of the largest irrigation and hydropower projects in the world, has engendered heated debate between supporters and opponents. The N arm ada situation effectively highlights significant contemporary controversies about development policy and implementation, including the problems of reconciling large infrastructural plans with participatory development, and equitably addressing the competing resource and cultural concerns and needs of disparate populations. At issue are the criteria by which one balances the needs and interests of various populations within a nation-state, £he means by which social and environmental costs are weighed against the projected economic advantages of large-scale development projects, the degree to which the interests of marginalised groups should receive special consideration, and even the definition of development itself.

In response to the growing controversy, the President of the World Bank established an unprecedented independent review team in June 1991 charged with assessing the resettlement and rehabilitation and environmental aspects of the Sardar Sarovar projects. The review team, led by Bradford Morse, former head of UNDP, issued its report in June 1992. Sardar Sarovar: The Report of the Independent Review, which brings together and analyses a large amount of information, should be required reading for development planners desiring toheedthelessons of this controversy.

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Himal Southasian