Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, inaugurated the SardarSarovar Dam on river Narmada, which is described as Gujarat’s lifeline by BJP leaders, at an event coinciding with his 67th birthday. The foundation stone of the dam was laid on April 5, 1961 by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, it took 56 years to complete its construction. The delay in the completion of the dam was due to numerous reasons. MedhaPatkar-led Narmada BachaoAndolan took the government to the Supreme Court over environmental and rehabilitation issues, and obtained a stay in 1996. The court allowed resumption of work in October 2000. The height of the dam was recently raised to 138.68 metres, which will allow maximum ‘usable storage’ of 4.73 million acre feet of water.
Prime Minister Modi said that World Bank had said it would not fund the project and had also alleged that it would ruin the environment. He added that the World Bank did all it could to ensure India cannot have such a mega project. “But India too had decided that World Bank or no World Bank, we will build the Mega SardarSarovar Dam with our blood and sweat. After the 2001 earthquake, when this project picked up pace and showed the world what India can truly do. The same World Bank had to eat humble pie, swallow its pride and was forced to give India’s SardarSarovar Dam project the world’s topmost environment-friendly project award,” said the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister said the SardarSarovar Dam faced so many obstacles before its completion but the government was determined that the project will go on. “71 years ago, before independence, before most of you and I were born, Sardar Patel had seen the dream and vision of SardarSarovar Dam. If work had been done, then the project would have been complete in the 1970s itself. People would not have had water problems. The land would have been so much more fertile,” he said.
PM Modi headed to Sadhu Bet, an island in the river Narmada where a 182-metre-tall statue of SardarVallabhbhai Patel – called the ‘Statue of Unity’ – and a memorial complex dedicated to the country’s first Home Minister are being constructed. Then PM Modi inaugurates the dam on the Narmada river and offers his prayers.
Activist MedhaPatkar is protesting against the project and demanding rehabilitation of the families affected by the SardarSarovar Dam construction. Narmada BachaoAndolan took the government to the Supreme Court over environmental and rehabilitation issues, and obtained a stay in 1996. The court allowed resumption of work in October 2000.
The dam has earned over Rs. 16,000 crore — more than double the cost of its construction, said a government spokesman. Each gate of the dam weighs over 450 tonnes and it takes one hour to close them.
SardarSarovar project is the biggest dam in terms of volume of concrete used in it
SardarSarovar Dam is also the second biggest dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States. 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.
By- Nikita Goel, Convenor, Student Reporters Committee