India’s Dam Building Abroad: Lessons from the Experience at Home?

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By Himanshu Thakkar, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People

In sectors such as steel, automobiles, oil and gas, wind and hydro power, Indian companies and state-owned enterprises have rapidly expanded their overseas investments in recent years. Not least motivated by the example of Chinese investors, they are trying to gain access to foreign resources, win international contracts, and strengthen their relations with trading blocks such as the ASEAN countries. They have had a presence in neighboring countries such as Nepal and Bhutan for a long time, and are now also spreading to more distanced countries in Asia and Africa.

This paper presents the Indian institutions which are engaged in building dams and other power projects abroad, and provides an overview of the projects which they are involved in. It summarizes the track record of Indian dam builders at home, and analyzes some of the problems which their new projects have created.

Himanshu Thakkar, the author, contends: “As they expand their foreign operations, Indian dam builders and financiers risk exporting their negative domestic track record and creating conflicts over their projects abroad. The Export Import Bank of India and companies such as NHPC, BHEL, SJVN, GMR, WAPCOS and others are well advised to adopt the WCD’s recommendations for good practice in water and energy sector development, to avoid getting embroiled in international conflicts over their projects.”