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12.11.2019

Maxar Spotlight: Development-Induced Population Displacement in India

By: Maxar Technologies


Read Time: 3 minutes

When we think of global development projects in developing countries, we tend to picture infrastructure modernization efforts intended to help the most impoverished populations. Unfortunately, data shows that the opposite is all too commonly true.

Vulnerable populations are being moved and resettled from their homes, lands, and social networks with increasing frequency to make room for large-scale development projects funded by the World Bank and other global organizations.

The problem of development-induced displacement and resettlement (DIDR) is most acute in India, where tens of thousands of impoverished residents are being uprooted in the name of dams and other infrastructure projects. Compounding the issue is the low rate at which these residents are successfully resettled. In populations that already feel marginalized by the Indian government, DIDR-related stresses manifest themselves in the form of land disputes and increasing violence.

This month’s edition of the Maxar Spotlight examines how adding planning and oversight processes for global development initiatives in India can help resolve the DIDR crisis. It shows how Maxar’s unique geospatial and analytic capabilities can augment DIDR planning in meaningful ways that benefit vulnerable populations and their natural surroundings.

How can governments and NGOs assess and mitigate the human and environmental impacts of massive development projects? See the complete picture on the ground and from space with this month’s Maxar Spotlight.

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Sneak Peek: (excerpt from Maxar Spotlight, Vol. 18)

The Polavaram Dam Project and Flash Flooding

Situated on the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh, the Polavaram Dam is intended to hold and divert some of the 100-200 trillion gallons of water that flows each year into the Bay of Bengal. The Polavaram Bill was passed in July 2014, and construction began in late 2016 despite objections from the neighboring states of Telangana, Orissa, and Chhattisgarh on social and environmental grounds.

Flooding caused by landscape disturbance has also been a significant area of concern. In August of 2019, 19,000 people had to be evacuated from the Godavari River area because of flash flooding associated with ongoing dam construction. Poor planning of the cofferdam’s height and construction and the failure of an associated spillway compounded the effects of heavy rainfall and submerged numerous villages. The map below, obtained from Maxar’s WeatherDesk, depicts the severity of rainfall between 15 July and 1 August 2019.

Project officials warned of the risk for higher flood levels in the months leading up to the heavy rain. Shortly after the flooding, India’s Irrigation Minister claimed that they “couldn’t estimate which areas would get severely affected due to the cofferdam’s construction.” This claim is inaccurate. Sophisticated and extremely responsive modeling of probable flood zones—facilitated by Maxar’s high-resolution digital elevation data, high-performance processing, and other source data—could have helped alleviate some of the uncertainty and improve both preparation and response efforts.

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