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India: Archeological sites at risk in the Narmada River valley
Scholars have studied India's Narmada River valley for more than 60 years and consider it to be one of the country's richest archeological regions. Yet because of lack of funding and in some cases lack of interest, they have so far not undertaken significant excavation. That said, experts recently made several major finds, which included the only hominid ever found on the Indian subcontinent, dozens of Lower Paleolithic sites, and several ancient temples.

For the past 3,000 years, hundreds of thousands of Hindus have performed a pradakashina (circumambulation) along the Narmada. This rite involves walking the entire length of the river up and back along both banks, a total of some 800 miles. Besides hundreds of historic temples that have grown up along the river, experts believe the region harbors remains of a wide range of early cultures.

In 1946, newly independent India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, first proposed damming the Narmada to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation to 50 million people. Since then, work has been underway to design and build on the river at least 30 large dams, 135 medium-sized dams, and nearly 3,000 small dams, which are used to channel water into thousands of miles of irrigation canals. But two of the largest dams—the Sardar Sarovar in Gujarat state and the Narmada Sagar in Madhya Pradesh—have yet to be built, and conservationists both in and outside of India have sharply critized both projects for the deleterious impact they will likely have on the valley's environment. Also of concern is the plight of 250,000 local people who have to relocate before the floodwaters rise. And, of course, the two so-called "megadams" will flood temples and submerge unexcavated riverbanks along the Narmada. Currently, no plans exist for salvage archeology in the region.

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A group of women in Gujarat state protest the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, one of the largest dams planned on the Narmada.

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