Western Ghats

Dams in Western Ghats: Nardawe Dam, Sindhudurga, Maharashtra

Through this series,  will be trying to publish issues related to dams in the World Heritage site of Western Ghats. The dilemma of Conservation Vs Development of this ‘most populated biodiversity hotspot in the world’ has been highlighted with the WGEEP and HLWG Report. Through this series, we will try to look at the way in which rivers, forests and communities in the Ghats are being affected by dam construction and to what extent do these dams contribute to development of teh region whihc suffers the impacts.

1. Nardawe Dam, Sindhudurga District, Northern Western Ghats, Maharashtra


Nardawe dam is being built on GadRiver in Kanakavali taluka of Sindhudurg district by Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), under the Water Resources Department, Maharashtra. Gad is a small west flowing river originating from the Western Ghats, meeting the Arabian Sea. According to the White Paper on Irrigation Projects in Maharashtra brought out by the Water Resource Department (WRD) in December 2012, Administrative approval for Nardawe Dam was granted in 1989 for Rs. 32 Crores. Due to a number of delays, the project could not be started for more than a decade. By the third administrative approval in 2007, the sanctioned cost shot up to ₹ 446 Crores.

Rice sowing at Nardawe
Rice sowing at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari


A brief reading of the White Paper and actual situation in Maharashtra indicates that this is a typical tale of most dams, where cost and time estimates have been escalated multiple times.

By June 2012, the KIDC has spent ₹ 311 Crores on this project. Costs have escalated despite the fact that canals in the original proposal have been cancelled and converted into 16 ‘Kolhapur Type’ gated weirs (KT Weirs). Its Command area (after the dam completion) is supposed to be 12, 530 ha, through 16 KT weirs. It will store 123.74 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) water .Total submergence of Nardawe Dam is 625 ha which will affect 3849 people from 967 families. 1 village is completely affected (Jambhalgaon) and 4 (Naradawe, Yavateshwar, Bhairavgaon, Durganagar) villages are partially affected. 34.13 ha of identified forests will have to be diverted for the project

Actual work on the project started in 2001.

According to white paper, 61% work on the dam is complete, which includes the earthen dam wall and 10 KT weirs.

This project finds itself mired in violations of several kinds That it is coming from KIDC comes as no surprise. This section of the WRD Maharashtra has been a regular in violating several norms while pushing its projects. KIDC was also found to have indulged in corruption in the case of Konadhane Dam in Raigad, has started work on Dams like Kalu and Balganga without Forest Clearances or rehabilitation plans.

Illegal Work without Environment Clearance The project has a command area more than 10,000 hectares and hence, requires an Environmental clearance according to the EIA Notification of 1994 which was in effect when the construction work for the dam started. Legally, work cannot start on the dam without an Environmental Clearance. In Nardawe, work has been 61% complete even without an Environment Impact Assessment or Public Hearing.

Work at Nardawe Dam. Photo; Damodar Pujari

Executive Engineer of the Project, Mr Godse, while speaking to SANDRP on the 7th July 2013 accepted that the project has just applied for Terms of Reference (TORs) with the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and had started work without an Environment Impact Assessment, Public Hearing or Environmental clearance.

Forest Clearance The project affects 34 ha of identified forest land (वन संज्ञा क्षेत्र) and hence requires Forest clearance from Divisional Forest Office, Bhopal. It does not have final forest clearance. Violating the Forest Conservation Act 1980, work on the project went on, even in Forest area.

Work at Nardawe Dam Photo: Damodar Pujari
Work at Nardawe Dam Photo: Damodar Pujari

The Executive Engineer, while speaking to SANDRP stated that a number of queries have been raised by the Forest Office, Bhopal, one of which is that the project is in vicinity of Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary and may need clearance from National Board for Wildlife too.

Forest Rights Act: Individual and community Rights of people dependent on Forest areas are not yet settled. This is serious as these are private forest lands and there is a strong dependence of people on these forests.

High Level Working Group (HLWG) and Western Ghats Expert ecology Panel (WGEEP) Reports All of the affected villages fall under Ecological Sensitive Areas as per the HLWG report and entire Kanakavali Taluka was considered as Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESZ) – I by WGEEP. WGEEP Report has recommended that no large dams should be built in ESZ 1. According to HLWG Report, peoples’ consultation and resolution are a must prior to starting work in Ecologically Sensitive Areas.

These committees were formed after work on the Nardawe Dam started. However, these reports highlight the high ecological richness of the area. If KIDC had conducted a credible Environment Impact Assessment, as it is legally bound to conduct, these issues could be highlighted before starting work. Current ecological and related social loss could have been avoided.

Officials agree to violations, say that it is more of a norm When SANDRP talked with the Executive Engineer of the project, Mr. Godse on 7th July 2013, he agreed that work on the project is in advanced stage without an Environmental Clearance or Forest clearance in place. As a justification, he said that many projects in Maharashtra indulge in these violations! He said that the project has just applied for TORs for Environmental Clearance with the Ministry of Environment and Forests’. However, the project is yet to come up before the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF on River Valley Projects.

Dubious role of EIA Agencies While the Executive Engineer himself agrees that the project has progressed without an Environmental and Forest Clearance in place, The EIA agency for this project, namely Science and Technology Park, Pune[i] did not bat an eyelid while agreeing to do an EIA for this project. They did not point it out to KIDC that applying for an Environmental Clearance when the work is supposedly 61% complete is illegal, neither did they refuse to be a party of such a violation. When SANDRP talked with official from Science and Technology Park involved in this work, he admitted that have visited the region and know that work is at advanced stage. He also agreed that this is a violation and there is little meaning in doing an EIA in such a case. This same agency has worked on EIA Reports of other dams in Konkan region as well.

KT Weirs instead of Canals Letter written by Upper Secretary, Irrigation Department dated 23rd November 1994, claims that the proposal of building RBC (85 km) and LBC (45 km) can generate less irrigated area compared to their length and hence appear to be inefficient in terms of cost as well as irrigation potential. The letter further asks the executive engineer to change the cropping pattern to arecanut and floricultural crops in the command area which require less water which could be supplied from gated barrages through lift irrigation. With this letter as support, canals have been cancelled and KT weirs are being installed, at an increased cost.

Abandoned site office of teh nardawe Dam at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari
Abandoned site office of the Nardawe Dam at Nardawe Photo: Damodar Pujari


Issues of rehabilitation and resettlement When a survey was conducted in 1997, it concluded that 967 families were affected by Nardawe Dam. Sixteen years after the survey, villagers say that the number of affected families has grown to 1245. This means that more than 6000 people may be affected by this project. The villages where resettlement will take place are nothing but sections of hill slopes, as I saw for myself.

Figure 5. Santosh Sawant. One of the affected people and non-governmental member on rehabilitation committee at district administration level

Currently, No resettlement has taken place and villagers are not moving out of their homes.

In a bid to force the affected families out from their homes, administration has stopped construction and repairing of basic civic facilities in the affected villages since 2001. No new water connections, repairing of roads and even ZP schools has taken place in the affected villages in order to push the residents accepting lands in resettlement villages.

Response of the administration has been to assert that local opposition has been the main reason behind the delay in the project. Actually, work on the project has been going on irrespective of local protests, morchas or sit-ins, in complete disregard of the local demands and concerns.

In Conclusion According to villagers, KT weirs built downstream the dam are largely unused because of the cropping pattern, which depends mainly on monsoon and availability of groundwater. Before the KT weirs too, the river was used for some seasonal irrigation.

Time and again it has been proved that major and medium irrigation projects are not a solution for Konkan’s agriculture. According to the White Paper, while the ‘Created’ Irrigation potential of a large dam ‘Tillari’ in Sindhudurga is 7,295 hectares, the actual irrigation potential utilized is just 162 ha!

According to Economic Survey Report of Sindhudurg District in 2012 (Please see table below), large and medium projects have performed dismally. Of the total command area of 49878 hectares, the area actually irrigated by major projects is a mere 158 hectares that is 0.31% and for medium projects with command area of 40821 hectares, area irrigated is an unbelievable 82 ha that is 0.2%!

As against this, minor projects seem to have done better with 4619 hectares irrigated in command of 12851 hectares (around 36%).

Performance of water resources projects in Sindhudurg

No Taluk




Command area Actual irrigated area Command area Actual irrigated area Command area Actual irrigated area
1 Devgad







2 Vaibhavwadi







3 Kankavali







4 Malvan







5 Vengurla







6 Kudal







7 Sawantwadi







8 Dodamarg














Source- District Economic Survey of Sindhudurg, 2012

The region receives more than 2500 mm of rainfall and decentralized rainwater harvesting, watershed management, revival and renovation of traditional irrigation systems like temple tanks and paats can be cost effective, ecologically sustainable, equitable and efficient solution for this region. The entire Sindhudurg district has several small, decentralized traditional irrigation systems like paats. There exist intricate conflict resolution and water sharing arrangements at the community level about using these paats. Sindhudurg is also rich in irrigation through Temple tanks. TempleTanks in Dhamapur and Nerur stand testimony to the fact that even today, these systems are being utilized.

So then, why are projects like Nardawe, which are costly, unviable, ecologically destructive and stemming unrest in the region being pushed and promoted?

The primary motive behind these irrigation project does not seem to be irrigation or public welfare,  for which number of benign options are available. These projects are an easy source profits for contractors, engineers and politicians.  Issues like sustainability, efficiency and equity do not seem to matter for the KIDC or Water Resources Department in Maharashtra.

Nardawe Dam is just one example of the large dam centric water management prevalent in Maharashtra. The Irrigation scam which is still unfolding, has demonstrated how hollow this dependence on large infrastructure projects is. If we weigh the meager benefits of these projects against the ecological, social and economic losses to the local communities, environment and public exchequer, it becomes clear that specifically in Konkan region, large dams like Nardawe have no case.

Damodar Pujari, SANDRP

[i] According to its website (http://www.scitechpark.org.in/): “The Science and TechnologyPark is an institute set up jointly by Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India and University of Pune in the year 1988.”