The Statue of Unity is taking shape in Kevadia, Gujarat, nearly four years since then chief minister Narendra Modi had laid its foundation stone on October 31, 2013.
The statue, of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has so far been erected up to the knees — 59 metres tall, at 117 m above sea level — out of a planned 182 m, to match the number of assembly constituencies in Gujarat. By September, workers from TQ Art Foundry of Jiangxi Tongqing Company in Nanchang, China, will arrive in Kevadia to assist in assembling the bronze cladding of the façade.
For the core, the framework is a mixture of concrete and steel. For the cladding, TQ Art Foundry has designed about 5,000 bronze panels under the supervision of artist Ram Suthar. These will be assembled in a workshop before being clad to complete the façade in phases. The TQ Art Foundry workshop has completed precasting the feet and the dhoti for the first stage and these will arrive in India in a few weeks.
“Thousands of high quality prototypes of precast façade will be shipped in from China and assembled at the site,” said R G Kanungo, superintending engineer of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL). “Simultaneously, the steel framework that will give the exterior shape and hold the bronze cladding together will be shipped in from Trichy, where it is being manufactured. Close to 100 workers from China will arrive and work on the cladding. By then, the height of the statue will be at 90 metres, almost halfway through.”
The contract for the steel framework has been given to Malaysia-based Eversendai, which lists Dubai’s famous highrises Burj al-Arab and Burj Khalifa among its projects.
On site, SSNNL officials say, close to 2,400 workers are at work on day and night shifts. “Currently, we are constructing the core wall, the RCC spine of the statue — on which steel frames will be affixed to hold the bronze cladding together,” Kanungo said. “We have also completed construction of the drum wall. Shortly, we will construct a coupling wall to add rigidity and connect the cores. These concentric concrete cores will house elevators and stairways.”
The biggest challenge has been the wind. “So many times, the workers have to pause the construction to allow the wind to calm down. However, we calculated that delay in the overall project deadline,” Kanungo said.
The core will rise to 157 m, forming Sardar Patel’s body up to his chest. This is where the viewing gallery will be set up. Under the original plan, visitors were to travel to the height of the head with the gallery through the statue’s eyes. Engineers have, however, decided now it is not feasible.
During his Lok Sabha poll campaign, Modi had announced collection of farm tools from across India for the construction to represent the “unified India” that Sardar Patel stood for. NGO Citizens for Accountable Governance designed and rolled out the outreach and social mobilisation plan, while the drive was launched by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust, a special purpose vehicle headed by the Gujarat CM.
After deliberation about the apparent non-usability of the scrap collected, “we have used about 109 tonnes of iron to create the reinforced beams… as per the vision of PM Modi to use metal from across India,” said Kanungo. “We were able to extract 109 tonnes from about 135 tonnes of scrap that was processed.”