One of the most controversial and expensive projects in the history of India, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi brought the 53-year-old Sardar Sarovar Dam project back into focus on Thursday, while laying foundation stone for the Statue of Unity. He accused the Central government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of delaying the raising the height of the dam by building “gates”, which would optimise generation of hydroelectricity and water supply in the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
The Indian Express explains the recent controversy surrounding this dam located at Kevadiya Colony in Narmada district. The Sardar Sarovar Project, executed under the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam ltd (SSNNL), was built at the cost of $ 392.4 billion and every year the Gujarat Government spends Rs 5,000 crore on the project.
What is the current status of the dam and the recent controversy surrounding gates?
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, a state government undertaking, completed raising the dam up to 121.92 metres in 2006, which is 96 per cent of its total concrete structure. And since then, in absence of a go-ahead from Narmada Control Authority (NCA), construction work at dam site in Kevadia Colony has come to a standstill. NCA was given power by the SC in 2000 to allow raising of height from time to time following clearance from Relief and Rehabilitation sub-group and Environment sub-group. The state Government has asked the NCA to allow installation of spillway piers, which will take dam to full height of 138.62 metres and 30 steel radial gates over Sardar Sarovar Dam. It is the piers and gates that will technically make it a dam, without which it can only be called a causeway. The Gujarat Government is still waiting for the NCA nod to install the gates.
Why does the Narendra Modi government wants to install gates as soon as possible?
The Gujarat Government has already built the required 30 iron gates, but once installed it will take height of this dam covering four major states - Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan - to 138.62 metres from current 121.92 and increase water holding capacity by 74 per cent - from 1.27 million acre feet to 4.75 million acre feet - and help irrigate parched areas in Gujarat. In absence of gates, with the dam overflowing for past two monsoons, water goes wasted even as parched lands of Saurashtra and north Gujarat reel