iconic project

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 19 Sep 2017 11:49:38

REGARDED as one of the iconic irrigation projects of the country, the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the mighty Narmada river, has finally seen the light of the day when Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi unveiled the plaque on Sunday. But it took all of 56 years and endless struggle, controversies and prolonged litigation to see this dawn. It would be educative enough to study what has the country lost by way of accruals from the dam’s water to the people of most part of Gujarat and to the national economy. Because the dam was undertaken, like Hirakund and Bhakranangal, as the harbinger of prosperity for the parched people of Gujarat and even some parts of remote Rajasthan. But nothing went right for the project right from the beginning. 


While the two major irrigation projects, Hirakund and Bhakranangal, were completed without hassles and within ten years of their launching, the Sardar Sarovar dam kept on languishing for over six decades. What Bhakranangal did to the economy of parts of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and even Delhi, particularly the agriculture sector, is a well known success story. Irrigation brought unimaginable prosperity to agriculture in these regions and gave fillip to industry and built an industrious culture all through the vast region. But no such thing happened in the case of Sardar Sarovar, which was considered as the lifeline for most parts of Gujarat.

As rightly said by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, many people “conspired to stop” this “engineering miracle. The project got mired in seemingly endless litigation, controversies and agitation. Even as the Prime Minister was unveiling the plaque the antagonists of the dam did not stop from harping their usual negative narrative. The Prime Minister has rightly said that a massive disinformation campaign was raised against the project. So much so that the World Bank had backtracked on funding it, raising the environmental bogey. The massive expanse of the project required massive funding and that was met with indigenous resources once the go ahead was received from the Supreme Court. And what has turned out now is an “engineering marvel.”

Now that the dam has been finally opened for public use, the Prime Minister hopes that it will become the symbol of prosperity for the nation. Not only that, even the jawans, guarding the nation’s frontiers in Rajasthan’s desert, who have difficulty getting water, would get the Narmada water through the Sardar Sarovar. Thus the enormity of the possibilities that may accrue to agriculture, to industry, power generation, drinking water and in fact to the whole economy, are worth pondering over. That the dam is to meet the drinking water needs of almost 53 pc of the total perennially parched villages of Gujarat and 131 urban centres is indicative of the possibilities the dam waters hold for Gujarat and in effect for the entire nation in coming years.

If these are the benefits to be derived from our irrigation projects why have most of our major projects been languishing for years and decades? There are some sections of people who have made it their pass time in putting spokes, untold hurdles, indulge in mindless litigation to stall projects, invoking flimsy concerns of loss of livelihood, environmental issues, decay of heritage, opposing acquisition of land for the projects etc.

While there is no dearth of these elements, the government authority too has not covered itself with much glory in not expediting projects with necessary urgency. Infrastructure projects all over the country have got entangled in bureaucratic rigmarole. Even ministers have played their own part in putting roadblocks in several infrastructure projects. The country has paid a very heavy price for this decadence in governance.