AS waters of the Bhagirathi and its tributary, the Bhilangana, start getting impounded behind the massive 260.50 metre high Tehri Dam, the old Tehri town, capital of the Shah rulers for the last 180 years or more, goes under the huge lake extending to an area of 46 square kilometres. By the time the monsoon season comes to an end on September 30, there will remain no trace of this town, which has justifiably saddened many hearts. One might recall that about 45 years ago, another town in the Himalayas too had ?disappeared? from the map. The name of that town was Bilaspur (not to be confused with the railway town of the same name in present-day Chhattisgarh). As the Bhakra Dam reached the height of 225.55 metres (750 feet), the old town of Bilaspur went under the Govindsagar Lake, formed by the impounding of the waters of the Satluj and built at a gorge. The Government of India, which had built this dam, built another town with the same name in today´s Himachal Pradesh. This new Bilaspur has almost completely obliterated the memories of the original Bilaspur. In the case of the Tehri too, a new town called the New Tehri Township (NTT) has been and is still being built some distance away from the old town at a height of 6,000 feet. Almost all the residents of the old Tehri town have moved to this new location. The Centre, which had launched the project way back in 1962, had paid compensation for the houses and other structures and buildings owned by the people as early as the 1980s (mostly around 1985-86) and, in a way, residents who have moved out of the town now were staying in houses owned by the Tehri project without paying any rent. One does not, of course, rule out the emotional aspect of the houses, in which they lived all these years, going under the impounding waters. A new town called the New Tehri Township (NTT) has been and is still being built some distance away from the old town at a height of 6,000 feet. Almost all the residents of the old Tehri town have moved to this new location. There is also another town, Harsud, in Khandwa district of Madhya Pradesh, which has just gone under the waters of the Narmada Sagar (Indira Sagar) Dam at Punasa in Madhya Pradesh, with almost all people moving out?some to the new Harsud township built by the government and some going elsewhere after collecting the compensation money. The railways had already built an alternate, electrified route, avoiding the town with the station that have now gone under water. The waters impounded at Tehri and Harsud will irrigate land and produce electricity, generating revenue both for the government and for the people. The trauma of shifting from one´s home will linger for many years, of course, and one sympathises with one. In this connection, one does feel that a national rehabilitation scheme applicable for people being displaced as a result of impounding of water or building structures should have been in place by now. Having said that, one must always mention in this connection the patently untrue pictures drawn by a group of individuals who are opposed to all development works in the name of environment, human rights, fear of earthquake and the like, and have been vitiating the atmosphere in the country since the last 25 years. The interesting part of these stories floated by them is that most of the activists do not have the remotest connection with the science and technology involved in construction of such large projects. Persons who had never crossed the gates of an engineering college have, with full authority, declared that an earthquake of 8.5 magnitude would hit the Tehri Dam area any day and so the government should withdraw from the project and abandon it altogether. Well, two earthquakes did hit the area after this ?prediction? was made by an environmentalists´ group. However, they had little impact on the dam, then under construction. It is not well known, unfortunately, that the Tehri Dam is not like the Bhakra, the Narmada or, for that matter, the Krishnarajasagar Dam in Karnataka. They are straight gravity dams. This dam at Tehri is an earth and rockfill structure, which will enable it to absorb any earthquake shock, and it is not a wall-like structure. Its base is 1,100 metres in length and its flanks are integrated with the mountainsides. A bird´s eye-view of the dam will look somewhat a giant tortoise-like creature. Such a dam can withstand earthquake shocks of very high magnitude. When in 1990, this reporter had visited the dam site, the then Russian chief geologist (Shri Davidof, if one correctly remembers the name) had told the group of journalists visiting the site that the Tehri Dam would be capable of withstanding an earthquake of even 9 magnitude. (There does not appear to be any record of an earthquake anywhere in the world having had a magnitude of 9). In a more colourful description of the safety aspect of this dam, a former Water Resources Secretary of the Government of India, Dr C.D. Thatta, had told (most probably) Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao that in case of an earthquake in Tehri, ?the safest place would be the top of the dam?. There are dams higher than the 260.50 metre Tehri Dam in the Himalayan region. In Tajikistan, in former Soviet Union, two dams?the Nurek and the Rogun?have heights above or nearly 300 metres. Besides, there is no record of large dams in the mountainous regions having collapsed as a result of an earthquake. Persistent efforts by some Indians opposed to development, with a helping hand coming from the World Bank and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), are being made and also they have been opposing the Narmada Dam tooth and nail. One might mention here that the World Bank, which had not been financing any large dam project for some years, has now reversed its earlier stand. One wishes that this realisation would have dawned upon them much earlier. In India, there is just no escape from building dams. It may astonish many that although India receives on an average 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain and snowfall a year, 80 to 85 per cent of this volume comes during the four months?from June to September. More interestingly, for those who are interested, the average duration of rainfall in India (it varies from region to region, of course) is only 100 hours, repeat 100 hours, out of a total of 8,760 hours in a year of 365 days. This being the case, how can anyone in his or her senses oppose construction of dams?large and small?for storing rainwater to last the remaining 8,660 hours?