The Sardar Sarovar Project aimed at construction of a massive dam on Narmada river in Maharashtra and Gujarat began in collaboration with World Bank in 1978. The Sardar Sarover dam is one of the largest dams ever constructed. It consisted of more than 3000 major and minor dams with an outlay of approximately 25,000 crore. The project was estimated to displace nearly one million people and submerge nearly 350,000 hectares of forestland and 200,000 hectares of cultivated land.
By 1985, people from all sections of society started mass movement to save Narmada. The movement first started as a protest for not providing proper rehabilitation and resettlement for the people who have been displaced by the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam. Later on, the movement turned its focus on the preservation of the environment and the eco-systems of the valley, growth oriented developmental policies and traditional rights of indigenous people over land and protection of forests. The Narmada Bachao Andolan founded in 1989 (Save Narmada Movement) and started under the leadership of Baba Amte, later lead by Medha Patkar and eminent Novelist Arundhuti Roy intensified the movement. The Activistists questioned design, implementation, resettlement and rehabilitation policies of Sardar Sarover Project. They organized Jan Vikas Sangharsha Yatra in December, 1990 and around 6000 protesters marched from Rajgha, Madhya Pradesh to Gujarat. The environmental groups pressurized World Bank against the project. Later, activists also demanded the height of the dam to be reduced to 88 m from the proposed height of 130m. The outcome of the pressure was that World Bank withdrew from the project.
The environmental issue was taken into court and in October 2000, the Supreme Court gave a judgment approving the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam with a condition that height of the dam could be raised to 90 m. This height is higher than the 88 m which anti-dam activists and environmentalists demanded, but it is definitely lower than the proposed height of 130 m. The project is now largely financed by the state governments and market borrowings. The project is expected to be fully completed by 2025.
Although not successful, as the dam could not be prevented, but this movement of Narmada Bachao Andolan has successfully constructed an anti-big dam belief in India and outside. It questioned the prototype of development.