Gujarat government was on Thursday given permission to raise the height of Sardar Sarovar dam by about 17 metres, a decision that drew sharp criticism from Narmada Bachao Andolan which says many densely populated areas in Madhya Pradesh were at risk of submergence.
A jubilant Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel announced the Narmada Control Authority has cleared, after an eight-year-long wait, raising the dam’s height to 138 metres from the current 121 metres.
As Gujarat chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had appealed for the clearance, which the local government believes will pave way for resolving its pressing water issues.
"Heartfelt gratitude from the people of Gujarat to Hon PM Narendra Modi. The decision pending has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa Gaye hain!!," Patel wrote on twitter.
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 thousands of people.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, who has been leading opposition to the project since the mid eighties, said the “new government has not given us any hearing nor has it taken any time nor made any attempt to know the ground reality”.
“Densely populated villages in Nimad area of Madhya Pradesh, with houses, farms, shops, temples, mosques and standing crops will face a watery grave if the dam’s height is increased,” she said in a statement.
According to NBA, about 250,000 people residing in the Sardar Sarovar Project submergence area in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh will be directly displaced even without raising the dam’s height.
Earlier this week, a delegation of tribals under the banner of NBA met a top Gujarat official, demanding they shall be relocated and rehabilitated properly before considering raising the height of the dam.