Height of a controversy

With protests growing over the Narmada Control Authority’s nod to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam, a look at the dam and the rising controversy

Published: June 29, 2014 1:01 am
Originally, the estimated cost of the project was around Rs 33,000 crore. However, following repeated delays, it is set to cross Rs 75,000 crore. Originally, the estimated cost of the project was around Rs 33,000 crore. However, following repeated delays, it is set to cross Rs 75,000 crore.

The project
As per the original design, the dam was to irrigate 17.92 lakh ha land in Saurashtra, North Gujarat and Kutch and 73,000 ha of land in Jalore and Barmer districts of Rajasthan. By 2006, it was projected that 3.5 lakh ha of additional land in these state would be brought under irrigation. In Gujarat, the project promised to generate 1,450 MW of hydroelectric power, provide drinking water to 139 towns and around 9,633 villages and provide flood protection for 210 villages with an aggregate population of 750,000. A 80,000 km length canal network was to take water from the reservoir to drought-prone areas of the state and to Rajasthan.

The Narmada
Main canal
Extending 450 km to the Rajasthan border, it crosses 19 rivers and 244 railway lines or roads.
With 31 branch canals, the aggregate length of the distribution system will be 75,000 km which will require approximately 80,000 hectares of land. The canal’s capacity is such that it will be able to empty the proposed reservoir storage in less than two months. The canal will also transport Narmada water to Saurashtra and Kutch region of Gujarat which are drought prone areas.

 

121.92 metres is the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river
138.68 metres is what the Narmada Control Authority has agreed to

The rising dam
June 2004     110.64 m
June 2006    119 m
October 2006    121.92 m
Installation of radial gates will take the height to 138.68 m.
At full reservoir level, taking into account the height of the flowing water column: 142 m
Height increase
Who is cheering…
The Gujarat government says that with the increase in height, the reservoir capacity will go up from 1.27 million acre feet to 4.75 million acre feet. It claims that this will help provide irrigation to an additional 6.8 lakh hectare and generate additional power. Madhya Pradesh, where the narrative is largely about displacement, will get an extra 627 million units of electricity every year.

…Who isn’t
Activists and those displaced by the project. Critics say Gujarat and Rajasthan could have got their full share of water from the project even without the height increase. They say they haven’t been able to utilise even 20 per cent of the water already available to them at the current height. In Madhya Pradesh, 11,342 families are set to be displaced if the height increases.

Project cost
Originally, the estimated cost of the project was around Rs 33,000 crore. However, following repeated delays, it is set to cross Rs 75,000 crore.

The Canals
Total Network
74,626 km
(*As on August 31, 2013)
Critics such as Sanat Mehta, former Gujarat finance minister and founder chairman of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), the agency that is implementing the project, say that Gujarat can get its full share of water (9 million acre feet) even at the existing height. If that’s not happening, it’s because the branch canals, sub-canals and water distribution systems are not ready.

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