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Sardar Sarovar Project
Sep 25, 2017

[GS Paper III: (Infrastructure - Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc)]

Why in news?

On September, 17, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on Narmada river at Kevadia, Gujarat. 

  • The dam is the third highest concrete dam (163 meters) in India, the first two being Bhakra (226 metres) in Himachal Pradesh and Lakhwar (192 meters) in Uttar Pradesh. 
  • Sardar Sarovar Dam is the second largest in the world in terms of volume and size. It comes second to the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia river in the U.S. state of Washington.

Background

  • The Sardar Sarovar Project is one of the largest water resource projects of India covering four major states - Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
  • On 5 April 1961, the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone of the Narmada dam project. However, it was only in 1987 that the contract was awarded to build the dam, but it remained embroiled in controversy.
  • Social activist Medha Patkar in 1985 organised several mass protests and consolidated a movement against the project called the “Narmada Bachao Andolan”.
  • As per the arrangement, the power generated from the Sardar Sarovar Dam will be shared among Maharashtra (57%), Madhya Pradesh (27%) and Gujarat (16%). 

Benefits of the Project

  • Irrigation: Nearly 18.45 lakh hectares of land are projected to be irrigated in Gujarat, providing water to the parched Saurashtra and Kutch regions of the state. It will also provide irrigation facility to Gujarat and Maharashtra.
  • Hydro Power: There is an installed hydropower capacity of 1,450 MW, which would be generating about 100 crore units of electricity per year. 
  • Water security: Water security of the country depends on water storage. India’s per capita water storage of about 200 cubic metres, which is low when compared to Russia (6,100 cubic metres), the U.S. (1,960 cubic metres), China (1,100 cubic metres). The project will help in increasing water storage in India.
  • Flood protection: The project will provide flood protection to an area of about 30,000 hectares in Gujarat.
  • Job Creation: According to estimates, about a million jobs will be created mostly in rural areas as a result of the project.

Criticism

  • Rehabilitation and Resettlement: Rehabilitation of about 80% submergence-affected population is still incomplete. Though the Supreme Court ordered in Feb 2017 that those displaced because of the project must receive Rs 60 lakh each as compensation for losing their land and be provided proper rehabilitation, but implementation of the SC direction has not been done yet.
  • Incompletion of the Project: The project is still incomplete (even after downscaling the canal network by about 18,000 km), as per Gujarat government figures, with over 30,000 km of canals yet to be completed; the Garudeshwar Dam downstream from the SSP is still under construction (without any social and environment impact assessment). 
  • Environmental impacts:  Critics feel that it may be one of India's largest planned ecological disasters. Though as of now there is no credible assessment of the economic, environmental and social costs and impacts of the project. 

Way Forward

  • The benefits of the project will depend on the effectiveness of the distribution system. All incomplete canal networks of the project must be completed soon. 
  • Food and energy security of the country also depend on water security. This would require storage by means of large dams. However, planners and policy makers should ensure that the lives of affected people are well safeguarded along with timely completion of large projects like SSP.


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