Gujarat erupts in joy over decision to raise dam height

Gujarat sees the approval given by the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by 17 metres as a victory.

“We have lost as many as nine years already,” Jagdip Narayan Singh, Managing Director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd., told The Hindu.

“Welcome the news of the clearance given by the Central government to put up the gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the lifeline of Gujarat ... Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon PM @narendramodi. The decision pending has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa Gaye Hain!” Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel tweeted. She had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti and other Ministers seeking approval of the long-pending demand.

“Not a single day should be lost in resuming work,” she tweeted and visited the dam site at Kevadiya to give the go-ahead for the work on the spillway piers, bridge and installation of gates.

Drought-prone Gujarat aggressively pursued the project over the years. In 2006, Narendra Modi, the then Chief Minister, went on a 51-hour fast in support of the demand.

“Mr. Modi used every opportunity he got to meet the [then] Prime Minister [Manmohan Singh] to remind the [previous] UPA government about the demand, but it did not want to give the approval. The new government has done it within a fortnight [of coming to power]. All it took was one meeting and one ‘yes’. This is not a fight. It is a question of justice. Justice has been done now. The project is a lifeline for Gujarat. There was a delay,” State Minister Bhupindersinh Chudasama told The Hindu.

With the increase in height, Gujarat would stand to benefit from increased water availability for irrigation, drinking and power generation. “For drinking water and irrigation, Gujarat gets the largest share, whereas Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra stand to gain power. The increase in height will enhance the water storage capacity of the dam by four times, from 1 million acre-feet to 4 million acre-feet [MAF]. This is a big insurance against drought. Gujarat is heavily dependent on the Narmada for drinking and irrigation,” Mr. Singh of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam said.

Under the Narmada tribunal’s award, 9 MAF of water is available to Gujarat from the Narmada, of which 7.5, 1 and 0.22 MAF are for irrigation, drinking and industry, respectively.

In Gujarat, as well as the rest of India, nearly 50 per cent of the industry is dependent on water, says Bhagyesh Soneji, chairperson, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Western Region).

“Water directly influences the industry. The pharmaceutical and textile industries, which are the mainstay of industrial activity in Gujarat, are hugely dependent on water. The pharma industry also needs mineral water. Besides, the manufacturing sector and the food processing industry, based on agro products, also require large quantities of water,” Ms. Soneji said.

Farmers too endorsed the NCA’s decision, which they said would lead to improved irrigation capability of the dam.

“Farmers in Gujarat, especially in Saurashtra, are crying out for water. The UPA should not have played politics with this decision, since public interest is involved. The increased height of the dam means more water for the farmers, which, in turn, boosts productivity in Gujarat,” Magan Patel, president of the Gujarat unit of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said.

“This is a good decision for farmers as we stand to get more water for irrigation. In Morbi and Surendranagar districts, water availability is a big problem,” said Jethabhai Patel, a farmer from Morbi.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 8:10:59 PM |

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