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Modi inaugurates Narmada dam: 'I can't do small things'

18 September 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river, saying no other project in the world has faced so many hurdles as this "engineering miracle" which many people had "conspired to stop".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Sardar Sarovar Dam inauguration on 17 September 2017  

One of the first mega projects undertaken by the Indian government after Independence, the Sardar Sarovar Dam took almost 56 years to complete since India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone on 5 April 1961.

The Sardar Sarovar Dam, commonly known as the Narmada dam, is the world's second-largest dam after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States. It is expected to provide power and water to 9,000 villages in three states - Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Modi unveiled a plaque and performed a puja at the site in Kevadia in Narmada district on Sunday.

"You know me, I can't do small things. I don't think small, don't do small things. With 1.25 billion people with me, I can't dream small," he said.

"No other project in the world has faced such hurdles as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river. But we were determined to complete the project," Modi said at a subsequent rally some 55 km from the dam site in Dabhoi town of Vadodara district in his home state of Gujarat.

The inauguration of the dam comes ahead of the state assembly elections due later this year.

The Sardar Sarovar dam is intended to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages (53 per cent of total 18,144 villages of Gujarat) and irrigation facilities for 18.54 hectares of land covering 3,112 villages under 73 talukas in 15 districts.

Besides Gujarat, the Narmada canal will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan.

The prime minister, after dedicating the dam to the nation on his 67th birthday, said "Sardar Sarovar will become a symbol of India's new and emerging power and propel growth in the region...the project is an engineering miracle.

"Many false allegations were hurled on us. Many people conspired to stop this project. But we were determined not to make it a political battle," he said.

"I have knowledge ('kacha chittha') of everyone who tried to stall this project, but I will not name them as I do not want to go on that route," the prime minister said.

"A massive misinformation campaign was launched against the project. The World Bank which had earlier agreed to fund the project, refused to give a loan for it raising environmental concerns. But with or without the World Bank, we completed the massive project on our own," Modi said.

"When the World Bank refused money for Sardar Sarovar Dam, temples of Gujarat had donated for the project," he said.

Thanking the tribal families who were displaced by the project, Modi said, "India will remember and honour their sacrifice for development of the country."

Paying tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar, he said had the two founding fathers of Independent India lived longer, the dam would have been completed in the 1960s or '70s, boosting the economy and combating the problems of drought and floods.

''Today, after the inauguration of the Narmada dam, the soul of Sardar Patel must be jubilant, blessing us all. He had envisioned the dam 75 years ago, even before independence. Imagine the great vision of the man who could dream so big for the sake of farmers," he said.

Modi thanked the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Maharashtra's Devendra Fadnavis and Rajasthan's Vasundhara Raje Scindia for their contribution in completion of the project.

The delay in the completion of the dam was due to several reasons apart from protests by environmentalists and displaced villagers, including a dispute between Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on the sharing of the water and electricity.

Salient facts

Here are some facts about the Sardar Sarovar Dam as outlined by Zee News:

  • The dam built on the Narmada river was first conceived in 1946 as part of the Narmada Valley Development Plan.
  • The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru called it the new "Temple of resurgent India" as he laid its foundation stone on 5 April 1961
  • However, it got the environmental clearance 26 years later in April 1987 when Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister
  • Environmentalists vehemently opposed the project, and in 1988, scores of scientists and social workers petitioned Gandhi to reconsider the decision.
  • The World Bank stopped funding the project in 1994 because of strong protests led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement).
  • The Supreme Court ordered suspension its construction in 1996 on the plea of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The court, however, vacated its order in 2000 and set conditions on the dam height after the government promised to work on the concerns raised
  • In 2003, the Court gain stayed the construction over rehabilitation and compensation issues.
  • The dam was commissioned in 2006 when Modi was Gujarat chief minister and Congress-led UPA govt ruled the Centre but teething issues persisted.
  • The Narmada Control Authority gave its final clearance in June 2014 when the height was raised to 138.68 metres.

(See:  Protesters vow to drown selves in Narmada waters)

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