Three years since the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the Statue of Unity on October 31, 2013, the Statue of Unity is beginning to take shape. While the original plan included the construction of a viewer’s gallery at close to 182 meters, from the eyes of the statue, the engineering teams have now decided to restrict the viewers’ entry to 157 meters, which will comprise a gallery at the chest level of the statue.
Each of the three CMs of Gujarat since its foundation have laid a foundation stone for a part of the project. After Modi laid the main foundation stone, a year later, then CM Anandiben Patel laid the foundation stone for the Shresth Bharat Bhavan. Her successor Vijay Rupani recently laid the foundation stone for a memorial near the statue. After completing the work on the raft foundation, the engineering teams working on the structure have now commenced the construction on the actual statue, beginning with its feet. This is one of the first of Gujarat government’s projects to call for crowdfunding, with the largest individual contribution having been made so far, as per the official website, being Rs 50,000.
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Officials of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which is part of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed by the Gujarat government to execute the project, say that currently the construction is being done for the core wall and drum wall — RCC spine of the statue — on which steel frames will be affixed to hold the bronze cladding together, which will be the facade of the Sardar Patel statue. These concentric concrete cores will house elevators and stairways as well as platforms at various levels for viewing. The steel framework, also being procured from China, will be “contoured in the form of the statue” and the cladding will be the facade. The engineer ads that the statue’s “jump form” construction assembly will be a “self-climbing one”, with built-in hydraulic lifting jacks that will move the structure upwards during its construction.
Superintending Engineer R G Kanungo said, “The core will rise up to about 162 meters of the structure — forming the statue’s body up to chest. However, unlike earlier when the visitors would be able to rise to the height of the structure’s head with a viewing gallery through the statue’s eyes, the engineering teams have realised that it is not feasible. The viewing gallery will now be at 157 meters through the statue’s chest. The head of the statue will only be accessible to maintenance teams.”
At the off-site fabrication units of the statue, workers have readied the plaster moulds for the feet of the statue. Kanungo said that the bronze cladding will begin in phases, along with the construction, beginning from the feet.
The bronze cladding will be shipped in from TQ Art Foundry belonging to Jiangxi Tongqing’s workshop in Nanchang in Eastern China and fitted in stages. SVPRET officials say the workshop has completed “precasting” the feet and the Dhoti of the statue for the first stage, which will arrive in India a few weeks later. By December end, officials and artists from the Chinese company will join the engineers of contracted giant L&T to assist in assembling the cladding on to the structure.
The construction teams have also completed the work of the raft foundation as well as the work for retaining and peripheral walls. Official sources say that close to Rs 500 crore have been spent on the project so far. However, the work on the Shresth Bharat Bhavan has not commenced due to land acquisition issues.
K V Sanghavi, chief engineer, project director, SVPRET, said that the work on the allied projects of the Statue of Unity would commence shortly. “We have resolved the issue of the land acquisition and are in the process of finalising plans. We will begin the construction on the Shresth Bharat Bhavan soon.”