In a major boost to Gujarat which has been regularly facing water woes due to deficient rains, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel today announced that they have got approval to raise the height of Narmada dam to 138.72 metres (455 feet).
"The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has given the approval to raise the height of the dam to 138 metres," Patel said in Junagadh while she was there to attend a function.
The decision of the NCA comes just a few days after Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of the country.
"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 on micro blogging site twitter today.
"At Junagadh right now for Shala Preveshotsav. Leaving for Narmada dam site at Kevadia. Not a single day should be lost in resuming work," she further tweeted.
State health minister and spokesperson Nitin Patel told PTI, "We have received the approval for raising the height of Narmada dam from 121.92 metres to 138 metres."
The decision to raise the height of the dam comes after eight years.
The foundation stone of the dam was laid by country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961. The project, however, got embroiled in controversy over issues of displacement of project-affected people.
However, the Supreme Court had earlier given the approval for the project to raise the height of the dam to 138.72 metres.
Take people's view before decision on Narmada dam: Medha Patkar
Social activist Medha Patkar today said the government should take into account views of people from the Narmada valley before taking any decision on increasing the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam project.
"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," Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, said.
"Can the height be raised in violation of law?" she asked.
"The decision has not been taken in a democratic manner. The government has not consulted concerned ministries," Patkar said.
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, she said.
Adivasi villages in the hills of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat habitating hundreds of families are also to be further submerged. Altogether, not less than 2.5 lakh people, farmer, fish-workers, potters, shopkeepers will face a deluge and devastation, without rehabilitation, if the height is raised from 122 meters to 139 metres, she said.
"Will NDA government permit such an injustice to be caused in violation of Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award as well as Supreme Court judgements? she asked.
"Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel announced that 'verbal permission' will be granted and then the formalities will be completed within a week's time. She claimed that no party state has any objection to raising the height. This is obviously neither true nor transparent," the activist said.
None of the concerned new ministers, Uma Bharti, Prakash Javadekar or Thavarchand Gehlot, have looked into all the reports, detailed data as well as the ground level situation. Their visit to the valley could go a long way, she said.
"How could the government deal with such a grave situation and go ahead just because Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister. May we remind all the ministries that they have to first appraise the social and environmental impacts and judge serious non-compliance themselves," she said.
Meanwhile Uma Bharti said, "Social justice ministry has given its report and they are 100 per cent satisfied and because of the the report of the (social justice) ministry they have done all the kind of things they have to do, the kind of responsibilities they have to commit, they did it and they have given their full satisfactory report in this meeting today and that is why decision has been taken by the secretary of water resources."