After obtaining approval to raise the height of the Narmada dam from 121.92 metres to 138.68 metres by installing 30 sluice 0gates that are 17 metres high, the Gujarat government now faces the daunting task of completing the 75,000 km canal network that will irrigate 1.8 million hectares (4.47 million acres) of land across the state.
The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) on Thursday approved the Gujarat government’s long-pending demand seeking to install the gates on the dam, which is often described as the lifeline of Gujarat as it would bring water to the parched and drought-prone regions of north Gujarat and Saurashtra-Kutch.
Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel hailed the NCA decision as historic and said the authorities would complete installing the gates in three years.
Once the gates are installed, the reservoir storage area will go up from the existing 1.27 million acre feet to 4.75 million acre feet. The full height of the dam will help pump more water into the planned 75,000 km-long canal network of which only 30% of the work has been completed so far.
“A major hurdle in the way of the giant project has gone with the NCA’s approval but the real benefits to Gujarat farmers will come only after the entire canal network from main canal to branch canals, distributaries, minors, sub-minors and field channels are in place to feed the farms in the command area,” noted social scientist Vidhyut Joshi, who was involved in the Narmada planning work, said.
The Narmada project, conceived by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the 1950s, has been through several controversies regarding environmental damage and displacement of tribals in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In 1982, work for the massive project had started and so far, the Gujarat government, which is implementing it, has spent Rs. 40,000 crore against the original cost of Rs. 6,404 crore estimated in 1986-87.