Addressing a rally on the occasion of Namami Devi Narmade, celebrating the full reservoir level of the Sardar Sarovar dam at its raised height of 138.68 metres, Modi said: “In our culture, there is a belief that environment protection and development are both possible. Since morning today, I have visited a lot of places. At every place, I have seen amazing coordination between environment and development. On one side is the Sardar Sarovar dam and the hydropower turbines, and on the other side there is a cactus garden, a butterfly garden, eco-tourism and others,” he said.
That the Sardar Sarovar dam has reached its full reservoir limit (FRL), he said, is an achievement in itself because the level earlier was 122 metres. “This is a laudable achievement. And this will be the inspiration for the Jal Jeevan mission and promotion of movements for the success of water conservation in the country. The people’s movements in the state for water conservation are commendable and should be promoted at the national level too,” he said.
On the Statue of Unity and the footfall of more than 23 lakh tourists in the last 11 months, Modi said: “On an average, Statue of Unity sees a daily footfall of 8,500 tourists. Compare it with the Statue of Liberty which sees a footfall of 10,000 tourists every day. It is 133 years old. So a daily average of 8,500 tourists at Statue of Unity in just 11 months speaks volumes about its popularity. With new tourist attractions coming up in the area, not only will tourist numbers increase but so will employment opportunities for local residents.”
He recalled the time when the state used to have acute water shortage, and how women had to walk 5-10 km daily to fetch water. Families from Kutch and Saurashtra migrated to other cities, he said, adding that it was in 2000 when a special water train service was started to provide water to Jamnagar, Surendranagar and Bhavnagar.
The state, he said, had come a long way since. “When you trusted me with power, we had two major responsibilities. One to expedite work on the dam for irrigation and drinking water, and the second to expand the Narmada network canal. Till 2001, the main canal stretched only 150 km. Irrigation and drinking water facilities were incomplete. But today, in the last 17-18 years, almost twice the land has been brought under irrigation. Area under drip irrigation and micro irrigation was only 14,000 hectare and only 8,000 agricultural families could benefit from it. Today, the area covered is 19 lakh hectare and around 12 lakh families benefit.”
He cited an IIM study which concluded that micro and drip irrigation had led to 50% water conservation, 25% reduction in use of fertilizer, 40% reduction in labour cost and 30% increase in crop produce which eventually led to an increase of Rs 15,500 in the per hectare income of each family in Gujarat.
Reiterating the government’s goal to provide tap water to every household, Modi said, “Not only irrigation, tap water provision to every household has also substantially increased. In 2001, only 26% households had tap water availability in Gujarat. Today, 78% households have tap water facility. Taking inspiration from here, we have to achieve similar accessibility of tap water across the country.”
After he reached Kevadia in the morning, Modi visited tourist attraction spots developed around the Statue of Unity including the cactus garden, the butterfly garden, safari park, Vishwa Van and Ekta nursery which were also formally inaugurated Tuesday. He released butterflies and named the saffron-coloured tiger butterfly as the state butterfly. He performed the Narmada aarti before addressing the rally. In the afternoon, Modi met his mother Hiraba over lunch in Raysan, Gandhinagar, where she lives with her younger son Pankaj.
(With ENS, Gandhinagar)