News / 20 September 2012

Report on Impacts of Dams on Riverine Fisheries in India.

With over 5100 big dams and hundreds more in the offing, India is in the forefront of global dam building. While impacts of dams on displacement, ecosystems, water security, etc., are well documented, their impacts of fisheries and livelihoods are yet to receive any attention. That is why the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) launched a report on Impacts of Dams on Riverine Fisheries in India.

Invisible stakeholders

The analysis leaves no doubt: impacts of dams on fisheries have been multi-pronged and they have resulted in the collapse of fisheries in many rivers. Despite glaring evidences and loss of livelihoods of millions of subsistence fisherfolk, the issue does not get the attention it deserves and large dams continue to get built without any mitigation measures for fisheries in place. Fisherfolk receive no compensation for the loss and many a times, disappearance of fisheries in the downstream following a dam. They are invisible stakeholders who slowly disappear from their traditional resource, seeking livelihoods somewhere else, with no requisite skills or resources.

Top down decisions

Unfortunately this scenario exists in many developing countries, where the livelihood of millions of people is directly tied to the health of ecosystems. In the current top down, centralised and non- transparent decision making process, these communities find absolutely no space to negotiate or to lobby for their livelihoods and in turn the ecosystems.

Negotiated Approach

In this bleak scenario, a ‘Negotiated Approach to Integrated River Basin Management’, wherein the local communities are in charge of managing their river basin is the only possible way out. Unless decision making powers are devolved to the lowest possible levels, serious livelihood and ecosystem concerns cannot be addressed or resolved. Interestingly, sustainable fisheries management was practised by local communities for ages by using methods and measures like protected riverine stretches, fish sanctuaries, no fishing seasons, etc. Reinstating these methods could save the livelihoods of more than 10.8 million fishermen who depend on riverine fisheries in India alone. This holds great promise not only for fisheries and livelihoods but for climate change adaptation as well.


Factsheet ‘Negotiated Approach to Integrated River Basin Management’

SANDRP Report on Impacts of Dams on Riverine Fisheries in India

South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)



Photo: 'Depending on Subsistence fishing at Shastri Estuary, Western ghats' by Parineeta Dandekar (SANDRP)

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