First Post, June 13 2014, Ahmedabad/Mumbai: The Narmada ControlAuthority (NCA) today gave its approval to Gujarat for raisingthe height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to 138.68 metres from thepresent 121.92 m, in a decision that will benefit parchedregions of the state but which has angered activists.
The decision comes within days of Narendra Modi, a strongvotary of raising the height of the dam, taking over as PrimeMinister.
Chief Minister Anandiben Patel made the announcement aboutthe NCA nod during her visit to Junagadh.
“The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has given theapproval to raise the height of the dam to 138 metres,” Patelsaid.
“Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon PMNarendra Modi. The decision pending has come so swiftly.Achchhe din aa Gaye hain!!,” she also tweeted.
However, the NCA’s decision was received with strongdisapproval by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a movementagainst construction of large dams on the Narmada river.
Its chairperson Medha Patkar termed the move asundemocratic, saying that no consideration had been given tothe fact that a large number of villages will be submerged.
“The decision taken is undemocratic as the government hasnot considered the fact that 2.5 lakh people are living in thearea which will submerge due to the raising of the height ofthe dam,” Patkar said.
“The government has neither given us any hearing nor hasit taken any time nor made any attempt to know the groundreality, before deciding to go forward with Sardar Sarovar Damconstruction to its final height,” she told reporters inMumbai.
Sardar Sarovar dam at its present height itself has 2 lakhpeople in its affected region. So, if the height is raised byinstalling 17 metre-high gates, the densely populated villagesin Nimad area of Madhya Pradesh with houses, farms, shops,temples, mosques and standing crops will face a watery grave,she said.
Adivasi villages in the hills of Maharashtra, MadhyaPradesh and Gujarat inhabited by hundreds of families are alsoto be further submerged. Altogether, not less than 2.5 lakhpeople, farmer, fish-workers, potters, shopkeepers will facedeluge and devastation, without rehabilitation, if the height
is raised, she said.
“The present height of the dam which is 122 m could nothave been raised even by an inch. We will fight against thisinjustice,” she said.
Eight years ago, the NCA had allowed raising the height ofdam to 121.92 m and there were demands by the Gujaratgovernment to allow it to raise it further.
The foundation stone of the dam was laid by JawaharlalNehru on April 5, 1961. The project, however, got embroiled incontroversy over issues of displacement of the projectaffected people and their rehabilitation.
“The raising of the height of dam was stalled for the lasteight years. The government of Gujarat was bearing a loss ofRs one crore per day due it,” Patel told reporters at Kavadia,the dam site, after performing puja to start work for raisingits height.
“This will help in a great way as we will be able to takewater to the parched lands of the state which regularly facewater shortage due to deficient rains,” she said.
“Thirty-five gates will be installed on the dam and thework will take three years to complete,” she said.
The Narmada Control Authority, in a meeting held at NewDelhi today, allowed Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. toinstall gates on the dam, an official release said.
Sardar Sarovar Project is an on-going inter-statemultipurpose project on river Narmada and is being constructedby Gujarat. The project envisages hydro-power generation of1450 MW to be shared by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra andGujarat. In addition, it will provide irrigation in 17.92 lakhhectares in Gujarat and 2.46 lakh hectares in Rajasthan.
Theseinclude the desert and drought-prone areas of Kutch andSaurashtra in Gujarat and Barmer and Jalore in Rajasthan.
The project would also supply drinking water to 135 urbancentres and 8215 villages in Gujarat and two urban centres and1107 villages in Rajasthan.
However, a major impediment is non-completion of work oncanals that would carry water to the beneficiaries. TheGujarat government had admitted in the Legislative Assemblythat 75 per cent work on the canal network was pending.
“The canal work of Narmada dam will be completed by 2015and minor sub-canal work will be undertaken by formingcommittees of farmers,” Patel said when asked about thepending work.
Various issues involved with the project had been raisedbefore the Supreme Court which had after examination directedthat sub-groups be set up to examine the specific issues, agovernment release said.
“While the other sub-groups, after detailed deliberations,had already accorded clearances, the sub-group dealing withrehabilitation and resettlement issues presented its reportbefore the Narmada Control Authority on 12thJune, 2014 in thecontext of Phase-1 clearance of Sardar Sarovar Project.
“After considering the report of the sub-group anddeliberations amongst the four states involved, the NarmadaControl Authority allowed Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. toconstruct piers, overhead bridge and installations of gates asper the draft design duly complying with the conditions aslaid down by the sub-groups,” it said.