Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to dedicate the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia, Gujarat to the nation on Sunday. It is the highest dam ever built in India. The height of the dam was recently raised to 138.68 metres, enabling a usable storage of 4.73 million acre feet (MAF).
However, the plan for harnessing the river for irrigation and power generation in the Narmada basin was initiated in the concluding days of the pre-independence era in 1946. Later, the foundation stone for the Sardar Sarovar Project was laid by country’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 5th April, 1961.
Explaining the characteristics of the Sardar Sarovar project, a Sardar Sarovar Dam official said that it is the biggest dam in terms of volume of concrete used in it. The official informed news agency IANS that the 1.2-km-long dam which is 163 metres deep has till date produced 4,141 crore units of electricity from its two power houses – river bed powerhouse and canal head powerhouse — with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW and 250 MW, respectively. The power generated from the dam would be shared among three states — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Government sources claim that irrigation from the project is expected to benefit about 10 lakh farmers and drinking water to be supplied to various villages and towns, is likely to benefit up to four crore people. Also, the dam is likely to provide flood protection to riverine reaches measuring 30,000 hectares covering over 200 villages including Bharuch city catering a population of 4 lakh in the state.
Meanwhile, there have been protests by the displaced people, demanding rehabilitation from the government. Activists allege that the people displaced as result of the dam construction have not been fully compensated or rehabilitated. Around 30 women led by activist Medha Patkar continued their sit-in protest on Saturday, demanding rehabilitation of the families affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Inspite of the project having been conceptualised in as early as 1946 and the foundation stone laid in 1961, it got delayed due to a plethora of reasons. One of the biggest challenges to construction of the dam came from the well known- Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar. The construction work was suspended in 1996, after the NBA activists obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court, which highlighted environmental and rehabilitation issues.
It was only after the Supreme Court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of construction of the dam that work had resumed. However, the apex court had set a condition that permission to increase the dam height would be given in parts after the project-affected-people (PAP) are resettled or compensated.
Earlier in the day, people affected by the project had staged a ‘Jal Satyagaraha’ at Chota Barda village. “People will drown in the Narmada river but they will not move. Planning is being done for the massacre of thousands of families so as to celebrate Modi’s birthday with great pomp and show,” said Patkar.
Accusing the opposition Congress of delaying the Sardar Sarovar project, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said: “Before 2014, the UPA government did not give permission for seven years to install gates on the dam. And after Modiji became Prime Minster, the permission was granted in 17 days.”
(With IANS inputs)