In a major boost to Gujarat which has been regularly facing water woes due to deficient rains, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Thursday announced that they have got approval to raise the height of Narmada dam to 138.72 metres (455 feet).
"The Narmada Control Authority 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 on Thursday.
"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. "Now, we will have to erect concrete pillars on the dam and put up gates. Already the construction of dam up to the level of 121.92 metres has completed," Nitin Patel said.
"We have kept the gates ready, but the entire process to install the gates and raise the height of the dam to 138 metres will take at least another two years," he said. "There will be immense benefit to the state as the dam will be able to store three times more water than the present storage capacity. It will also be able to generate hydro power to the full capacity," he said.
The meeting of the NCA which was held on Thursday in Delhi gave the approval for raising the dam's height, Patel said. The rehabilitation work of projected-affected people was completed by the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, government sources said.
The estimated cost of dam project is Rs 392.4 billion. The main dam is 1,210 metres long and 163 metres high from the deepest foundation level. It is the second largest concrete gravity dam (by volume) after Grand Coulee in the US and having world third largest spillway discharging capacity, as per the website of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited said.
The designed live storage capacity of the reservoir is 5,860 million cubic feet which is equivalent to 4.75 million acre feet. The dam has the installed capacity of generation of 1,450 MW hydropower.
Once the dam construction is completed, it will provide irrigation water to 1.8 million hectares in Gujarat and benefit one million farmers. It will provide drinking water to 9,633 villages and 131 towns. The canal network of the dam has approximately 75,000 kms length. The main canal of the dam taking the water from the dam in South Gujarat up to Rajasthan is 458.31 kms long.
However, the Gujarat government was yet to complete works on branch and subsidiary canal network and the state government accepted in the House that 75 per cent work on the canal network was pending.
It would be difficult for the state government to make the Narmada dam water reach the intended beneficiaries, if it fails to complete the work on canal networks.
Image: Picnickers watch the overflowing Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam in Kavadia, 194 km south of Ahmedabad. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters