Narmada river is the 5th largest river in India and flows from highlands of eastern Madhya Pradesh near Amarkantak to the Bay of Camay in Gujarat, running 1312 kms. And draining a basin of 98,800sq. kms. Passing through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat the river carries almost the same waters as those of Ravi, Beas and Satlej of Punjab put together.

Only less than 5% of the Narmada waters have so far been harnessed almost entire average annual flow of 41,000 MCM is going into the sea. While such huge water resource is being wasted without any use, large areas in western Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and South Rajasthan continue to suffer from droughts and floodwaters are causing huge damages to the life and property in Gujarat.

It was the late Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel who conceived the idea of constructing a dam over the river Narmada in 1946-47 for the optimum use of Narmada waters for the welfare of the Nation. After Independence, development of water resources was considered a priority area. The late Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru described big dams as modern temples of India. He laid the foundation stone of this project on April 5, 1961. Subsequently, development plans for the Narmada waters were discussed, controverted and finally settled through adjudication by Narmada Water-Dispute Tribunal which deliberated upon all possible options for nearly 10 years and resolved the water dispute amongst the four states of Madhya Pradesh,Gujarat Maharastra and Rajasthan. Under the Inter State Water Dispute Act, 1956, the decision of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal is final and binding on all the four states and shall be given effect to. The Central Government also agreed before the Tribunal to do its best to implement the decision of the Tribunal. Thereafter, thorough studies were under taken by experts of the Gujarat Government, Planning Commission, Central Electricity Authority, Ministry of WaterResources and World B and the project was prepared to conform to decision of the Tribunal, viz. height of the dam corresponding to 455 ft. FRL, and 460 HEL and utilization of the allocated 9.0 MAF of water to Gujarat (slightly less than 1/3 of the utilizable quantum of Narmada water) for drinking water supply, industrial use and providing irrigation facilities. Besides, there will be large benefits of drinking water supply to rural and urban areas to at least 50 million persons in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Madhya Pradesh has been allocated major share of benefits from Narmada waters.

Benefits in nutshell of SSP

Eighteen lakh hectares of land will be irrigated annually in Gujarat by the Sardar Sarovar Project Besides 132 cities and 7,234 villages covering entire Saurashtra, Kachchha and north Gujarat will get drinking water. All villages in these three regions having no source or inadequate source of potable water will get Narmada waters to meet their full requirements in the year 2021 according to the national norms. The project will benefit a prospective population of 40 million in Gujarat besides generating permanent employment to over six lakh persons on completion. Rajasthan’ s drought prone districts of Barmer and Jalore will get irrigation (75,000 ha.) and drinking water facilities. Maharashtra will get 27% and Madhya Pradesh 57% share from the 1450 MW power generated at the dam complex. There will be flood control benefits a prospective pop

The rehabilitation package offered by the project to the affected persons is the most liberal policy deal presented so far not only in India but, perhaps, in the world. The World Bank has aptly described as a model deal for the developing countries.

photo courtesy by Vishal Solanki

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