Saturday, April 15, 2006 (New Delhi):
The meeting of the review committee of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) chaired by Water Resouces Minister Saifuddin Soz ended without results.
The chief ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party say work on the dam should not stop.
The Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi has announced a 51-hour protest fast on Sunday on the banks of river Sabarmati. Anti-dam protestors say increasing its height will displace another 35,000 families. For the last two weeks Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists, headed by Medha Patkar have been on a hunger strike.They have been demanding that the hundreds of people displaced by the dam be rehabilitated before the height of the dam is raised.Minister Saifuddin Soz is believed to have admitted that rehabilitation of people who lost land as a result of the project has not been adequate.
Over 200 engineers and hundreds of labourers are working round the clock to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 121.92 meters.Already 32,000 cubic meters of concrete has been put into place ever since the NCA gave a go ahead to raise the height. Executive engineer Ashok Gajjar has been associated with the project for two decades and has seen Rs 4000 crore being spent on electrical, civil and other allied works at the canal head ever since the work began.The meeting in Delhi to review the NCA decision has made him apprehensive. "I only pray to God that the work shall not be stopped and I am sure it will not be stopped," he said. Several hundred feet below ground level, the work on the installation of the last of the six turbine generator units is on.
Almost Rs 1100 crore have been spent on installing these turbines and once operational the powerhouse is expected to generate 1200 MW of electricity which will go to the western grid.
So far the canal head powerhouse has generated 2300 million units following the raising of height to 110 meters.
Engineers say that once the height is raised and the riverbed plant becomes operational, an additional 550 million units will be produced per year.
"With the raising of the height by 11 meters we will be able to have an additional storage of 1700 million cubic meters and with this we will be able to have optimum generation of power," said O P Gulati, Chief Engineer, SSNL.
Barely 50 kms away from the dam at Gola Gamdi in Dabhoi taluka, Jam Singh seems indifferent to the latest developments in the Narmada dam controversy.
Having shifted to the resettlement site about 15 years back, he wonders when his son will be allotted an additional five acres of land as promised when he shifted from Jalsindi in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.
"They gave me 5 acres and said that when my son attains the age of 18, an additional 5 acres will be given, but it hasn’t been given," said Singh.As engineers await the outcome of the review committee meeting, the debate on development versus dislocation continues.