The Sardar Sarovar is the largest dam in the Narmada Valley Project—a multipurpose river development plan that includes the construction of several dams across the Narmada and its tributaries in west-central India. The dam, whose height has been raised to nearly 139 metres from the initially planned 80 metres, is now the world’s second-largest concrete gravity dam by volume, and arguably India's most controversial development project ever.
Over the years, several groups, most notably the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by the activist Medha Patkar, have challenged the construction of the dam on various grounds, particularly the environmental, economic, social and cultural damage caused due to its construction.The dam was declared completed on 17 June, 2017, and authorities were given permission to close all gates of the dam together for the first time, leading to gradual submergence of settlements upstream.
The NBA estimates indicate that there were at least 40,000 households in Madhya Pradesh alone affected by the project, 90 percent of which have not been fully resettled or rehabilitated, and continue to live in villages that will soon be submerged under water.
A pastoralist from the indigenous Barela Adivasi community in the Narmada submergence region near Chandankhedi, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh.According to the estimates of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, 90 percent of those affected by the Sardar Sarover Dam have not yet received complete relief and rehabilitation. September 11, 2017.
Many Hindus worship the Narmada, and consider it one of seven sacred Indian rivers—people travel from places as far as Indore to immerse idols in the river. A devotee carries an idol of the deity Ganesh to be immersed in the middle of the Narmada at Maheshwar, Khargone, Madhya Pradesh. September 05, 2017.
Nasra Solanki, 50, walks past demolished homes to fill up water in the Narmada at Kakrana, Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh. Not too long ago, before the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s gates were closed on June 17, the village extended all the way up till the green strip of land seen in the distance, he said. September 12, 2017.
A farmer has a weak tree, which he fears will fall on his standing crops, cut down by workers in Awali, Madhya Pradesh. September 08, 2017.
Pichhodi in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh was submerged for a very long time during the flood of 1970 following which the villagers moved to higher ground. The place was eventually submerged by the reservoir’s waters in 2013 and resettled villagers now find themselves close to submergence again. September 09, 2017.
Students read prayers towards the end of the day’s classes at a madarsa in Chikhlada, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. September 10, 2017.
Government officials mark the water level of a reservoir in Awali, Madhya Pradesh, where the house of Mukesh Goswami, a 45-year-old farmer, will become submerged. September 08, 2017.
Sitaram Semliya, 65, is administered fluids to treat his jaundice and viral infection as his wife Sajanbai, 55, attends to him. The daily wage farm worker couple from Segaon in Madhya Pradesh have been unable to make ends meet for the past eight days owing to his illness and are all set to lose their home to the flooding backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada. September 08, 2017.
A jeep carrying Adivasis up the hill towards Chandankhedi, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, passes through rushing backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s reservoir. All gates of the controversial dam on the river Narmada have been closed together for the first time on June 17, leading to gradual submergence of areas upstream. September 11, 2017.
Sunita Kharte, 25, and Solita Kharte, 20, pick green gram from their farm on a foothill in Borkhedi, Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. The backwaters now stand at less than 100 metres from their home. The Khartes, who belong to the Barela Adivasi community, have sown the quick yielding bajra and green gram because they were unsure about when the waters would submerge their farms and unwilling to risk investing in their regular commercial crops such as cotton and maize. September 09, 2017.
Rekha, a 25-year-old daily-wage worker, and her child, outside their home atop a hillock by the Uri Baghri, a tributary of the Narmada, in Nisarpur, Dhar. Madhya Pradesh. She said that her family has not received any compensation or land yet, though they have filed petitions with the gram panchayat at least six times. “We are daily wage workers. Should we run here and there with the forms or go earn our food?” September 10, 2017.
Villagers from Khaparkheda fill out forms that would allow them to receive compensation and land at the house of the village secretary in Chikhalda, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. September 10, 2017
Lahidas Kanes, 32, was a policeman before he left home two years ago and embarked on the Parikrama, a 2600 km circular journey around the Narmada from its birthplace in Amarkantak to the sea and back. He was on his walk back to Amarkantak, which could take another year, when he was photographed in the hills near Dehar,Dhar, Madhya Pradesh.The rising backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar dam are expected to drown most of the places and shrines associated with the Parikrama. September 11, 2017.
Kirta Bhaila, 38, fills up a jerry can with fuel for one of his two motorised boats. Bhaila and his wife Jili, 36, are now the only residents of a neighbourhood that has turned into an island, in Kakrana, Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh. September 12, 2017.
A fisherman at work in the Narmada near Chikhalda, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. “We now manage to catch only two or three species against the seven-odd we caught earlier,” Radheshyam Varma, a 49-year-old resident of the village, said. “We need bigger nets to reach the depths that some of these species now inhabit.” September 06, 2017.
Rakesh Vaskale (25) and Lalita (24) are Mankar adivasi farm workers who earn a meagre Rs. 100 (USD 1.58) each a day picking cotton or harvesting maize in Dehar, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. The village, which had been relocated in 2005, is now facing submergence again and their hilltop house may soon turn an island. The couple who haven’t received any compensation yet, may move along with Rakesh’s father, who has been offered resettlement in Gujarat. September 11, 2017.
Local journalists cover a protest in Nisarpur, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, demanding that the officials not shut down access to a bridge across the Uri Baghri, a vital link between Nisarpur and tribal settlements in the hills. September 10, 2017.
A bridge being built across the backwaters of the Narmada at Borkhedi, Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. September 09, 2017.
Mohan Barmal, a 60-year-old farmer, digs along with a hired worker to build a Durga temple next to his new home at the rehabilitation site for residents who were displaced from the village of Pichhodi, Barwani,Madhya Pradesh. According to Barmal, all four temples in his village are about to submerge. He is spending a part of the compensation he has received to build a new temple. September 13, 2017.
A woman belonging to the Barela Adivasi community brews mahua even as the rising waters of Narmada reach her farm, in the hills near Nisarpur, Dhar, Madhya Pradesh. September 11, 2017.