Modi inaugurates Sardar Sarovar Dam on his 67th Birthday

After many controversies and protests, Sardar Sarovar Dam was inaugurated today on the Narmada river by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his the occasion of his birthday.

The project would help take water to the Indo-Pak border in Gujarat, 700 km from the dam site, to fulfil the water needs of BSF soldiers, besides benefitting states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Besides Gujarat, the Narmada canal will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan.

The dam became a reality today in Kevadia, Narmada district after 56 years, when its foundation was laid by former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on April 5, 1961.The project was mired in many controversies and faced impediments from pro- and anti-dam activists, till finally the Supreme Court gave the nod for its construction in 2000.
The apex court, on October 18, 2000, in a 2-1 majority judgement, allowed construction of the dam up to the height of 138 metres subject to completion of the rehabilitation process. However, despite the court verdict, the construction of the dam continued to face hurdles on rehabilitation issue.

Meanwhile, miles away from the inauguration of the dam, thousands of people took part in ‘Jal Satyagraha’, a protest that requires standing barefoot in water. This was led by Narmada Bachao Aandolan founder Medha Patkar to raise the issue for the 40,000 families who will be displaced since their home will be submerged.

Sources: Economic Times, NDTV

Image Source: PIB

The Sardar Sarovar Dam: Engineering Miracle or Failure?

Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which is the world’s second largest dam on his 67th birthday, on September 17, 2017. He claimed that no other project in the world had faced so many obstacles and that the initiative had overcome numerous hurdles to finally be made. Present at Dabhoi, Gujarat, he dedicated the dam – which he called an “engineering miracle” – to the nation. The dam is supposed to provide power and water to 9,000 villages to the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

At the same time, miles away in a village in Madhya Pradesh, thousands carried out a ‘Jal Satyagraha’ – a protest sitting barefoot in water. The reason for this protest? They believed that the water from the dam will displace 40,000 families because their homes will be submerged. The protesters are led by activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar. The protest had begun on Friday on the banks of Narmada at Chota Barda village in Dhar, about 300 km from Bhopal. The water level has been rising there constantly and has already submerged Nisarpur and Rajghat.

The highest embankment on a river in the country is built on the Narmada river and is expected to change the fortunes of Gujarat. However, since the foundation stone of this project was laid in 1961 by Jawaharlal Nehru, it has wrapped up in myriad controversies.

In September 1988, many environmentalists, social workers and scientists sent a memorandum to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi asking him to reconsider environmental clearance granted to the project. Activists have since been demanding that the filling of water in the dam be stopped and the games opened so that the water level reduces.

Patkar, who had visited the areas expected to be submerged by the river project in 1985, submitted her critique of the project, saying that the people who were to be displaced had not been rehabilitated or informed properly about the issues. She also demanded that the water filling be stopped till rehabilitation is undertaken and compensation paid to the families, which however has not happened despite a Supreme Court order. She also took her case to the World Bank, which stoped funding the project in 1994. Modi himself has talked about the opposition to the construction of the dam from the World Bank. When the financial institution stopped giving money to the project, the temples of Gujarat donated money to it.

Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the apex court over the environmental issues posed by the dam and received a stay in 1996, although eventually in 2000, work was allowed to resume with some restrictions in October 2000. When her efforts failed, she led the NBA and undertook several fasts for weeks along with Baba Amte, another veteran activist.

Modi is right when he says that the project has progressed despite problems. In 2000, the SC allowed the government to increase the height of the dam to 90-metres, which kept increasing till it reached its current and final height of 138.68 metres.

The dam thus holds in its stead both expectations of development as well as the fear of displacement and the lack of compensation for the people of India. It also sits high as a symbol of the failure of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. While Patkar’s Jal Satyagraha movement carries on, so does some iota of rehabilitation and compensation, albeit slowly.

Sources: NDTV, India Today

Scorched Saurashtra set to receive Narmada water

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will return to Gujarat to unveil phase-I of his pet project Saurashra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Project (SAUNI), which will hope to quench the thirst of parched Saurashtra as reported b the DNA. This project is set to function at a crucial time, when the state runs into election in 2017.

An exquisite example of link irrigation, this project aims to divert one-million acre-feet (MAFT) excess of Narmada water to 115 reservoirs spread across 11 reservoirs in Saurashtra. An example of mammoth engineering this project with 1126 km of trunk pipelines will irrigate 11 lakh hectares of farm land across 972 villages.

The farmers of Saurashtra are accustomed to reaping one crop a year, as Rabi is the primary cropping season. Data from the irrigation department show that only 11 lakh hectares are irrigated out of the cultivable 42 lakh hectares.

The project is heavily dependent on motored pump, which entails heavy power consumption. Initially the power cost will be borne by the government but any plan to do otherwise will receive heavy flak from farmers, as the extra burden of power charge will reduce their profits to a considerable extent.

But nonetheless, a fully operating SAUNI project will enable them to water their fields three times a year and even increase the yield per hectare considerably.


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