The Times of India, July 23 2015, Gandhinagar:Construction work to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river to 138.72 metres – an important poll plank for chief minister Anandiben Patel who faces assembly polls in December 2017 – is all set for political delivery. Currently, work proceeding nine months ahead of schedule.
Almost 80% of the work on the 29 piers required for 30 sluice gates is over and construction of a bridge on the dam has also started, as per the status report of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL).
If all goes as planned, Gujarat government plans to complete the work by January 2017 instead of by the September 2017 deadline – an achievement which the Gujarat BJP will try and use to the hilt during the elections later that year. At the current height of 121.92 metres, the storage capacity of Narmada dam is 1.27 MAF (million acre feet). Once the new gates are installed and the Supreme Court gives permission to close gates for collection of extra water, the dam’s total storage capacity will quadruple to 4.75 MAF. The power generation is also expected to double from the present 700 MW to 1450 MW.
While 500-800 outsees will need to be rehabilitated in Gujarat, MP and Maharashtra for the SC to grant permission, it is ‘advantage Anandiben’ to pull off the project in time for political mileage.
With Modi heading the Centre and the BJP ruling all stakeholder states – namely Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan – Anandiben is poised to finish the project dogged by controversies all these years.
Narmada dam is known to have been used as a political lifeline by most chief ministers of Gujarat. Congress’s Chimanbhai Patel had raised public money through high-interest Narmada bonds to finance the Gujarat end of the Narmada project after the World Bank backed out. Narendra Modi went on his first 51-hour flash fast after construction work on the dam was suspended during the UPA regime. Credit was taken when, during Modi’s regime, permission came to raise height to 121.92 metres.
Soon after Modi became PM, Gujarat got approval to raise the dam’s height to 138.72 metres. Anandiben was quick to tweet, “Achche din have come for Gujarat”.