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Higher Narmada dam will spell disaster, warns experts' panel

The warning comes even as the state administration is all set to install gates for raising the height of the massive dam it calls 'lifeline of Gujarat'.

By Mahesh Trivedi

Published: Wed 17 Jun 2015, 10:52 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Ahmedabad: An experts' team has said that if the height of the gigantic barrage on the Narmada river is further increased, it could lead to a major disaster in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, and the disaster would be worse than the earthquake in Nepal.

The team recently visited several villages affected by the Gujarat government’s gigantic Sardar Sarovar dam project.

The warning comes even as the state administration is all set to install gates for raising the height of the massive dam it calls ‘lifeline of Gujarat’.

The six-member central fact-finding committee has also said in its report that thousands of people would be submerged because about 37,500 hectares of land in 245 villages across Gujarat, Maharahstra and Madhya Pradesh would go under if the height of the dam is raised from 122 metres to 139 metres.

“This would be a massive disaster and the government should conduct a scientific study to calculate backwaters,” said one of the members of the team that included two members each from the CPI and the Congress and as many independent experts.

According to the report, Drowning a valley: Destroying a civilisation, released in New Delhi last week, thousands of families are still living in the villages in the submergence zone as they have not been given land-based compensation as per the Supreme Court order and tribunal awards.

The committee said that Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the federal governments had lied before the apex court that the rehabilitation of all affected families was completed following which the clearance to raise the height of the dam by 17 metres was given soon after the Modi government took charge at the centre. The report concludes that the work on further raising the height of the monstrous dam must be stopped, and stressed the need for a scientific study on rehabilitation.

The controversial Rs450-billion Narmada dam project, nicknamed ‘lifeline of Gujarat’, has remained incomplete even 54 years after its foundation stone was laid by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The irrigation-electricity-potable-water scheme which will also benefit neighbouring Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, is expected to provide potable water to 8,000 villages as well as 140 towns and irrigate 1.8 million hectares of land besides generating 1,450 megawatt electricity.

In July last year, a Madhya Pradesh court verdict had thrown cold water on the jubilant Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled Gujarat government by temporarily staying its grandiose plans to install gates for increasing the dam’s height by 17 metres.

The court accepted the Medha Patkar-led Narmada Bachao Andolan’s petition citing woes of the oustees and ruled that the height of the dam

would not be raised till the inquiry into the NGO’s allegations of large-scale corruption in rehabilitating them was completed.


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