What's New :
IAS Mains 2024: Complete (GS & Optional) Syllabus Revision & Updation. Get Details

Just transition in petrochemicals: Bhadbhut barrage coming up on the Narmada estuary in Bharuch

Published: 2nd Feb, 2024


The SardarSarovar Dam had already reduced freshwater flows to the lower Narmada; the Bhadbhut barrage will kill what is left of the river.


The tranquil village of Bhadbhut in Gujarat faces a dual crisis – the decline in fish population due to the SardarSarovar Dam (SSD) and the looming threat of the Bhadbhut barrage. As fishers witness a diminishing catch, the environmental repercussions extend to the Narmada River and the livelihoods of the local community.

The Narmada's Transformation: Impact of SSD

1. Sweetwater Turns Saline

  • Reduced freshwater flow:Construction of the SSD in 2017 led to reduced freshwater flow in the Narmada, affecting the livelihood of fisherfolk.
  • Decline in fish:Bhadbhut village, where the river meets the Gulf of Khambhat, experienced a decline in fish, impacting the community's income.

2. The Hilsa Predicament

  • Hilsa Issue:The estuary, a breeding ground for Hilsa, faces challenges due to decreased freshwater flow during the southwest monsoon.
  • Local fishersimpact:The reduction in fish during this crucial period affects the financial sustenance of the local fishers and the overall fish business.

The Bhadbhut Barrage: A Bleak Outlook

1. Despair Amid Construction

  • Grim future:Bhadbhut barrage, 30% complete, signals a grim future for fishers as they anticipate the disappearance of fish, boats, and livelihoods.

2. Changing Professions

  • Fishermen are facingtransition to carpentry and other professions due to the diminishing catch and uncertain future.

Environmental and Economic Ramifications

1. Ecological Imbalance

  • Reduced freshwater flow leads to an imbalance in the estuary, impacting the breeding ground of Hilsa.
  • The highest tidal waves in India contribute to seawater ingress, affecting groundwater quality and agricultural practices.

2. Chemical Pollution

  • Chemical and petrochemical clusters in Bharuch district contribute to water pollution, impacting fish taste and quality.
  • Villagers face challenges with drinking water supply as groundwater turns saline in many areas.

Legal Battles and Advocacy

1. Narmada Pollution Prevention Committee

  • Appeals filed in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) highlight the insufficient water release from the SSD.
  • The NGT's referral of the case to the Supreme Court and subsequent return to the NGT underscores the complexity of the issue.

2. Impact on Locals

  • Locals express concerns about floods during monsoon due to SSD water release and saline water ingress affecting groundwater and agriculture.
  • Fishermen's associations emphasize the need for adequate water release to mitigate environmental and livelihood challenges.

The Bhadbhut Barrage: Justification and Critique

1. Purpose of Construction

  • The Bhadbhut barrage aims to protect Narmada water quality from saline ingress, prevent floods, and meet industrial water requirements.
  • Dahej's industrial growth and the creation of a coastal road underscore the barrage's significance in regional development.

2. Environmental Concerns

  • Environmental activist criticizes the barrage as a second mistake to correct the SSD's impact.
  • Lack of public hearings and environmental monitoring raise questions about the long-term consequences of the barrage.

Fisherfolk's Dilemma: Uncertain Futures

1. Economic Impact

  • Fisher families face unemployment risks, with estimates suggesting that 15,000 families may be affected.
  • Last year, the Hilsa trade in Bharuch was worth Rs 1,000-1,200 crore, emphasizing the economic stakes for fishing communities.

2. Changing Traditions

  • Traditional fishing livelihoods face a decline, with the younger generation showing reluctance to enter the fishing profession.
  • The shortage of fish adds to the struggles of fishermen and associated workers in the supply chain.

Way Forward: A Fragile Ecosystem and Livelihoods at Stake

  • The Bhadbhut saga reveals the intricate interplay between developmental projects, environmental conservation, and the preservation of traditional livelihoods.
  • As legal battles persist, the fate of Bhadbhut village hangs in the balance, symbolizing the broader challenges faced by communities caught between industrial growth and ecological preservation.

Verifying, please be patient.

Enquire Now