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Gujarat gets NCA nod to raise height of Narmada dam

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2014 PTI

Ahmedabad/Mumbai: The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) on Thursday gave its approval to Gujarat for raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to 138.68 metres from the present 121.92 metres, in a decision that will benefit parched regions of the state but which has angered activists. The decision comes within days of Narendra Modi, a strong votary of raising the height of the dam, taking over as prime minister.

Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel made the announcement about the NCA nod during her visit to Junagadh. “The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has given the approval to raise the height of the dam to 138 metres,” Patel said. “Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon PM Narendra Modi. The decision pending has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa Gaye hain!!,” she also tweeted.

The NCA’s decision was received with strong disapproval by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a movement against construction of large dams on the Narmada river. Its chairperson Medha Patkar termed the move as undemocratic, saying that no consideration had been given to the fact that a large number of villages will be submerged.

“The decision taken is undemocratic as the government has not considered the fact that 2.5 lakh people are living in the area which will submerge due to the raising of the height of the dam,” Patkar said. “The government has neither given us any hearing nor has it taken any time nor made any attempt to know the ground reality, before deciding to go forward with Sardar Sarovar Dam construction to its final height,” she told reporters in Mumbai.

Sardar Sarovar dam at its present height itself has 2 lakh people in its affected region. So, if the height is raised by installing 17 metre-high gates, the densely populated villages in Nimad area of Madhya Pradesh with houses, farms, shops, temples, mosques and standing crops will face a watery grave.

Adivasi villages in the hills of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat inhabited by hundreds of families are also to be further submerged. Altogether, not less than 2.5 lakh people, farmer, fish workers, potters, shopkeepers will face deluge and devastation, without rehabilitation, if height is raised, she said.

“The present height of the dam which is 122 metres could not have been raised even by an inch. We will fight against this injustice,” she said. The NCA had eight years back allowed raising the height of dam to 121.92 metres and there were demands by the Gujarat government to allow it to raise it further.

The foundation stone of the dam was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru on 5 April 1961. The project, however, got embroiled in controversy over issues of displacement of the project affected people and their rehabilitation. “The raising of the height of dam was stalled for the last eight years. The Government of Gujarat was bearing a loss of Rs1 crore per day due it,” Patel told reporters at Kavadia, the dam site, after performing puja to start work for raising its height.

“This will help in a great way as we will be able to take water to the parched lands of the state which regularly face water shortage due to deficient rains,” Patel said. “Thirty-five gates will be installed on the dam and the work will take three years to complete,” she said.

The NCA, in a meeting held at New Delhi on Thursday, allowed Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. to install gates on the dam, an official release said.

Sardar Sarovar Project is an ongoing, inter-state multipurpose project on Narmada river and is being constructed by Gujarat. The project envisages hydro-power generation of 1450MW to be shared by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

In addition, it will provide irrigation in 17.92 lakh hectares in Gujarat and 2.46 lakh hectares in Rajasthan. These include the desert and drought-prone areas of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat and Barmer and Jalore in Rajasthan. The project would also supply drinking water to 135 urban centres and 8,215 villages in Gujarat and two urban centres and 1107 villages in Rajasthan.

But a major impediment is non-completion of work on canals that would carry water to the beneficiaries. The Gujarat government had admitted in the state assembly that 75% work on the canal network was pending. “The canal work of Narmada dam will be completed by 2015 and minor sub-canal work will be undertaken by forming committees of farmers,” Patel said when asked about the pending work.

Various issues involved with the project had been raised before the Supreme Court which had after examination directed that sub-groups be set up to examine the specific issues, a government release said. “While the other sub-groups, after detailed deliberations, had already accorded clearances, the sub-group dealing with rehabilitation and resettlement issues presented its report before the Narmada Control Authority on 12th June, 2014 in the context of Phase-1 clearance of Sardar Sarovar Project. After considering the report of the sub-group and deliberations amongst the four states involved, the Narmada Control Authority allowed Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. to construct piers, overhead bridge and installations of gates as per the draft design duly complying with the conditions as laid down by the sub-groups,” it said.

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