17/09/2017 10:41 AM IST | Updated 17/09/2017 11:52 AM IST

Modi Inaugurates World's Second Biggest Dam On His Birthday

The foundation stone of the dam was laid by the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Amit Dave / Reuters
The overflowing Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam in Kavadia, 194 km (121 miles) south of the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, August 10, 2012.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, the world's second biggest dam, nearly six decades after its foundation stone was laid.

The inaugural event in the Kevadia colony of Narmada district coincided with Modi's 67th birthday and the culmination of the fortnight-long Narmada Mahotsav launched by the Gujarat government to celebrate the completion of the work.

The Prime Minister opened 30 gates installed in the dam. Each gate weighs 450 tonnes and it takes one hour to close them. It is the second-biggest concrete gravity dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States.

The foundation stone of the dam was laid on April 5, 1961 by the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, it took 56 years to complete its construction.

The inaugural event, will also see the culmination of the fortnight-long Narmada Mahotsav - launched by the Gujarat government to celebrate the completion of the work.

Modi will also address a public rally at Dabhoi, about an hour from Ahmedabad.

According to the Sardar Sarovar Project officials, it will irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the strategically important desert districts of Barmer and Jalore in Rajasthan, and 37,500 hectares in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra. A special allocation of 0.86 million cubic feet (MAF) of water has been made to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages, which is 53 per cent of the total 18,144 villages of Gujarat.

A senior official told IANS that the 1.2-km-long dam which is 163 metres deep has till date produced 4,141 crore units of electricity from its two power houses -- river bed powerhouse and canal head powerhouse -- with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW and 250 MW, respectively.

"The dam has earned over Rs 16,000 crore -- more than double the cost of its construction," he said.

The SSP which was inaugurated in 1961, got delayed due to several reasons. One of the main being the opposition to construction of the dam by the NarmadaBachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar. The construction work was suspended in 1996, after the NBA activists obtained a stay order from the Supreme Court, which highlighted environmental and rehabilitation issues.

It was only after the top court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of construction of the dam that work resumed. However, the apex court had set a condition that permission to increase the dam height would be given in parts after the project-affected-people (PAP) are resettled or compensated.

Patkar said the move to dedicate the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) to nation on September 17 is aimed at reaping political gains in upcoming polls in Gujarat. "The dam is being dedicated in a hurry without rehabilitating 40,000 families living in the catchment areas in Madhya Pradesh," she said.

The Narmada Control Authority had ordered the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Project be shut on June 16. The gates of the country's highest dam were closed the following day.

After closure of the gates the height of the dam was increased to 138 metres, with storage capacity raised to 4.73 million cubic metres (MCM) from the existing 1.27 million cubic metres.

Earlier, the height of the dam was 121.92 metres.

The Congress Party on Sunday took a jibe at Modi ahead of his Sardar Sarovar Dam inauguration on river Narmada and questioned as to who will get benefited from this dam.

Speaking to ANI, Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi said, "I want to ask as to who will get benefited from this dam? Will it benefit the small farmers who are not getting irrigation; will it benefit the villagers whose homes have been taken away because of its construction?

Will there be proper relief and rehabilitation? Will the small industries, which are crumbling under demonetisation will they get benefits of the electricity. Or, will the only big companies which are close to the ruling party will get? I think time will tell and we will keep a close and watchful eye."

Gogoi further said that it is unfortunate that for the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) vision is to only reach to their near and dear big business friends.

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