New Delhi: In a major victory for the Gujarat government within weeks of Narendra Modi taking over as Prime Minister, the Centre on Thursday granted it the much-awaited permission to raise the height of the Narmada Dam from the existing 121 metres to 138 metres, and allowed the installation of gates on the reservoir.
The Narmada Control Authority’s decision is politically significant as the demand to raise the level of the dam was pending before the Centre for the past nine years. A meeting of the NCA attended by secretaries of the water resources and social justice ministries, among others, decided to raise the dam level to 138.72 meters, saying the demanded was “justified”.
Soon after the decision was announced, the Narmada Bachao Andolan and its leader Medha Patkar alleged that the decision was taken in haste, and claimed that it would displace 2.5 lakh people.
But water resources minister Uma Bharti said at a press conference that the decision was taken after assessing all aspects. “According to the report of the social justice ministry, they (Narmada Control Authority) have done all the things they had to. The ministry has given a full satisfactory report at the meeting. That is why the decision was taken by the water resources secretary,” Ms Bharti told reporters.
“It was a collective decision,” she added.
Within minutes of its announcement, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel welcomed it and conveyed her “heartfelt gratitude” to Mr Modi, her predecessor as CM.
“The decision has come so swiftly. Achchhe din aa gaye,” she tweeted. The CM also tweeted that she was at Junagadh right now for Shala Preveshotsav, and would leave for the Narmada dam site at Kevadia.
“Not a single day should be lost in resuming work,” she said.
Water resources ministry officials added that the Centre had also given permission to the Gujarat government to put up gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The issue of raising the dam level is very close to the Prime Minister as he had doggedly fought with the erstwhile UPA government on raising the dam level and installation of gates. He had even undertaken a fast in 2006 asking the UPA government to allow Gujarat to increase the height of the dam.
Ms Patkar said it was an “undemocratic” decision and that the ministry should assess then ground situation first. “The question is whether Modi will act like the chief minister of Gujarat or as Prime Minister of India — will he take steps to ensure no condition is flouted and no family that has not got rehabilitation gets affected?” she asked.
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