Chief Minister Vijay Rupani lashed out at the previous UPA governments while heaped high praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi while flagging off 10-day long Narmada Mahotsav Yatra to mark completion of Narmada dam, from Parade Ground in Surendranagar on Wednesday morning. The CM also thanked farmers of Gujarat who gave up their land for constructing canal network of Narmada dam project and also governments of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharshtra, the states which have partnered in the project.
“UPA government withheld permission for installing floodgates on Narmada dam for seven years. Then Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz decided against interests of Gujarat. But 17 days after taking over as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi gave the permission on the condition that floodgates will not be closed. What the UPA government couldn’t do in seven years, Modi did it within 17 days. Was it really so difficult? Congress owes an explanation,” Rupani said.
The CM was addressing a public meeting before flagging off Narmada Mahotsav Yatra from Parade Ground in Surendranagar. The Yatra will pass through almost all districts of the state over the next 10 days. It will culminate at Dabhoi in Vadodara district near the site of Sardar Sarovar, popularly known as Narmada dam on September 17 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate the dam to the nation. The CM said exhorted people to perform pooja of Narmada water which will bring about prosperity by making available water for drinking purpose and irrigation.
Rupani also said that there was much delay in starting work on the dam project. “Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel conceived the dam in 1946 for taking Narmada water to parched areas and make Gujarat prosperous by enriching agriculture. Despite there being Congress governments in all participating states, nothing happened for years after that and Jawaharlal Nehru laid its foundation stone after much delay in 1961. Even after that, the project remained in controversies as opponents of Gujarat hampered work on it in the name of damage to environment,” said Rupani.
The CM alleged that Congress governments at Centre denied timely permission for phases of the Narmada project as “they can’t bear Narendra Modi and BJP governments take credit for it.”
“They were not giving permission to raise height of the dam. It was only after Modi went on fast in 2006 that they conceded,” said Rupani.
Incidentally, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) , a body which controls the implementation of the mega dam project, had given permission to Gujarat government in June, 2014 to install floodgates on Narmada dam. But the NCA permission came with a rider that those gates will not be closed. However, on June 16 this year, the Authority allowed Gujarat government to close the floodgates and to fill up the Sardar Sarovar reservoir to its full capacity.
“The Gujarat government then led by Anandiben Patel started work of installing gates without any delay. And we have completed the installation of gates nine months before schedule,” said Rupani.
After installation of the 30 floodgates, the effective height to the Narmada dam went up from 121.98 metres to 138.68 metres and increased the storage capacity of the reservoir 3.75 times to 4.73 million acres feet (MAF) from 1.27 MAF.
The celebrations begins just a couple of months before Gujarat heads to poll in November-December this year. The Narmada dam project is expected to provide irrigation water to 18 lakh hectare land in Gujarat. Majority of this command area of the dam project falls in drought-prone areas of Saurashtra and Kutch regions of the state.
The celebrations begin just a couple of months before Gujarat goes to polls in November-December this year. The celebrations also come when the canal network of the project is incomplete. However, Rupani said that couldn’t be reason not to celebrate the completion of the dam. “The canal network has been completed 80 per cent. This shows work is happening. Till 1995, only seven per cent work had been completed. The rest 90 per cent work has been done during the reign of Narendra Modi. The rest will be completed very soon,” the CM told The Indian Express after the event.
At the end of the public meeting, the CM flagged off four tableux. The tableux had replicas of Sardar Sarovar and repsentation of Narmada river in form of a goddess.