Narmada Bachao Andolan - Save The Narmada Movement

Narmada Bachao Andolan – NBA is an Indian social movement led by native tribes, farmers, environmentalists and human rights activists against the construction of a number of large dams under the Narmada Dam Project across river Narmada.  

The river Narmada flows through the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Know about the Major Indian River System for relevant details. 


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Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on the Narmada river and was one of the first focal points of the Save the Narmada Movement. SSD is a part of the Narmada Dam Project that aims to provide irrigation and electricity to people of the above states. Candidates can know in detail about the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the link provided here. 

Also, read about the National Unity Day on the given link.

The aim of this article is to keep candidates abreast with the facts and relevant information about the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The topic holds relevance for various competitive or Government exams under the General awareness section. 

Aspirants of IAS exam can also expect questions on Narmada Bachao Andolan in prelims as well as GS 3 of UPSC. 

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About Narmada River 

  • The river Narmada is the largest west-flowing river in the Indian peninsula, that arises on the plateau of Amarkantak in the Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh.
  • It covers the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and parts of Rajasthan. Its course is 1312 km to the Arabian Sea through lush forests, hills, agricultural regions and rocky gorges. 
  • It has around 41 tributaries, surrounded by 3 mountain ranges of Satpura, Vindhya and Maikal, and on the fourth side merges into the Arabian Sea. 
  • On its basin, the villages constitute 81% and comprise mainly tribal populations consisting of Bhils, Gonds, Baigas and others whose primary occupation is agriculture. 
  • The Narmada basin is rich in its natural resources.

To read more about the Major Indian River Systems, check the linked article.

Narmada River Dam site

Source – Hindustan Times

Narmada Bachao Andolan – How did it start?

Narmada Bachao Andolan is the most powerful mass movement, started in 1985, against the construction of a huge dam on the Narmada river. As per the Narmada Dam Project, the plan was to build over 3000 big and small dams along the river. 

The proposed Sardar Sarovar Dam and Narmada Sagar were to displace more than 250,000 people. The big fight of the Save the Narmada Movement was over the resettlement or the rehabilitation of these people.

Narmada Bachao Andolan – Key Points

  1. After the independence, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, called for the construction of dams on Narmada river to arrest excess water flowing into Arabian sea passing through Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to aid local people and development of the nation.
  2. Two of the largest proposed dams were Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar.
  3. The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal approved the Narmada Valley Development Project, which included 30 large dams, 135 medium dams, and 3,000 small dams including raising the height of Sardar Sarovar dam.
  4. In 1985, after hearing about the construction of Narmada Dam Project, Medha Patkar and her colleagues visited the project site and noticed that project work was being checked due to an order by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
  5. In 1987, construction began on the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the people who were going to be affected by the construction of the dam were given no information but the offer for rehabilitation. 
  6. In May 1990, Narmada Bachao Andolan organized a 2,000-person, five-day sit-in at PM V. P. Singh’s residence in New Delhi, which convinced the Prime Minister to ‘reconsider’ the project.
  7. In December 1990, approximately 6000 men and women began the Narmada Jan Vikas Sangharsh Yatra (Narmada People’s Progress Struggle March), marching over 100 kilometres.
  8. In January 1991, Baba Amte and the seven-member team began an indefinite hunger strike (continued for 22 days) and committed to a sit-in unto death.
  9. The Sardar Sarovar Dam’s construction began again in 1999 and was declared finished in 2006. The height of the project was increased from 138 meters to 163 meters. It was inaugurated in 2017 by PM Narendra Modi.

Aspirants can go through the following relevant links to prepare for the upcoming Civil Services Exams even better –

National Mission for Clean Ganga National Ganga Council Ganga Action Plan – (GAP)
Definition, Objectives and CAMPA Fund  List of Major Dams in India  List of Hydroelectric Power Plants in India
Koyna Dam The Major Indian River Systems West Flowing Rivers of Peninsular India
Dam Rehabilitation and Improvement Project Tipaimukh Project – Dam Project on Barak River Important cities and rivers UPSC
Interlinking of Rivers – National River Linking Project National Waterways in India Narmada Landscape Restoration Project (NLRP) 
National Green Tribunal List of World Longest Rivers National Water Informatics Centre (NWIC)
Dams in India Floods and Dam Management – RSTV  National River of India

Role Of World Bank in Narmada Bachao Andolan

  • The World Bank began working on the Narmada Project after it got clearance from the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal.

Aspirants can also know about various Inter-state water disputes in India on the linked page.

  • In 1985, the World Bank agreed to finance the Sardar Sarovar Dam with a contribution of $450 million without consulting the indigenous communities that were to be displaced.
  • Medha Patkar and other protesters testified on the Bank’s role in Washington D.C in 1989. This led to a build-up of pressure on the Bank to set an independent review to assess the situation at hand. A lot of support was withdrawn from the project after this.
  • World Bank, the financing agency for this project, announced it would institute an Independent Review of the Narmada Dam Project. 
  • The Morse Commission was established to look into the construction of the dam, and the environmental cost and human displacement in 1991. Their report clearly stated that the Bank’s policies on environment and resettlement were being violated.
  • The World Bank’s participation in these projects was cancelled in 1993.

Read more on the World bank on the given link.

NBA – Formation

  1. The leading spokesperson of Narmada Bachao Andolan was Medha Patkar and Baba Amte who received the Right Livelihood Award in 1991.
  2. The mode of the campaign under NBA includes court actions, hunger strikes, rallies, and gathering support from notable film and art personalities.
  3. Narmada Bachao Andolan was also joined by several NGOs with local people, professionals, and activists as the founders with a non-violent approach.
  4. There were many groups supporting NBA such as Gujarat-based Narmada Asargrastha Samiti, Madhya Pradesh-based Narmada Ghati Nav Nirman Samiti (Committee for a New Life in the Narmada Valley) and Maharashtra-Based Narmada Dharangrastha Samiti (Committee for Narmada Dam-Affected People).
  5. NBA’s slogans include – Vikas Chahiye, Vinash Nahin! (Development wanted, not destruction) and “koi nahi hatega, bandh nahi banega!” (we won’t move, the dam won’t be constructed).

Success of Narmada Bachao Andolan 

  • For its consistent non-violent struggle, Narmada Bachao Andolan won the ‘Right Livelihood Award’ that aimed at bringing justice to society at large. 
  • The issues of land for the displaced, the rehabilitation policy at a national level and development planning without displacement have become national issues with NBA interventions, influencing policymaking and mass movements. 
  • NBA has been effective in its multiple strategies at the executive, legislative and judicial level, campaigning against the destruction and displacement caused by large dams and for the rights of the affected people – farmers, labourers, fishermen and others. 
  • The achievements of the movements include:
    • The exit of the World Bank from Sardar Sarovar in 1993
    • Halt of Sardar Sarovar construction 1994-99
    • Withdrawal of foreign investors from Maheshwar dam, 1999-2001

To read more about all the powerful Environmental Movements in India in brief, check the linked article. 

Candidates preparing for the UPSC exam can check the links given below –

  1. IAS 2024
  2. UPSC Calendar 2024
  3. UPSC Syllabus

Frequently Asked Questions about Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)


What is the main aim of Narmada Bachao Andolan?

Narmada Bachao Andolan also was known as NBA is a social movement formed by activist Medha Patkar. NBA consists of human activist, farmers, Adivasis, and people established on the bank of Narmada river. The main aim of the movement is against the large dams built or in process across the Narmada river.

Who led the Narmada Bachao Andolan?

Narmada Bachao Andolan was also joined by several NGOs with local people, professionals, and activists as the founders with a non-violent approach. It was led by Medha Patkar.

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