The Hindu Editorials Notes – Mains Sure Shot

Note: The other important articles of today have already been covered earlier.


Question – In the context of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, highlight its merits and concerns.( Discuss 250 Words)

Context – the controversy over the Sardar Sarovar Dam.


What is the Sardar Sarovar Dam?

  • It is one of the 30 dams that are planned to be built on the river Narmada.
  • It is a part of the Narmada Valley Project, which is a large hydraulic engineering project that will involve the construction of a series of large irrigation and hydroelectric multi-purpose dams on the Narmada river.
  • The project took shape in 1979  as part of a development scheme funded by the World Bank through their International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to increase irrigation and produce hydroelectricity.
  • The construction of the dam began in 1987, but the project was stalled by the Supreme Court in 1995 in the backdrop of Narmada Bachao Andolan over several concerns including of displacement of people.
  • The dam aims to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages (53 per cent of total 18,144 villages in Gujarat) and irrigation facilities for 18.54 hectares of land, covering 3,112 villages in 15 districts.
  • It will be the second biggest dam in terms of the volume of concrete used and the third highest concrete dam in India.
  • The power generated from the dam will be shared among three states – Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

A brief history:

  • The foundation stone of the Sardar Sarovar Dam was laid in 1961. But soon there was a dispute between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat government on sharing of Narmada water and electricity.
  • To resolve the dispute, the Centre appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. A.N. Khosala in 1964. But the Madhya Pradesh government did not agree to the Khosala committee report.
  • Later, the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal was constituted in 1969 and it gave its final award in December 1979, after which the construction of the dam started in the 1980s.
  • But, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by activist Medha Patkar, soon launched an agitation against the dam and took the matter to the Supreme Court over environmental concerns and rehabilitation of tribals whose lands were likely to be submerged under it.
  • The Gujarat government promised a robust rehabilitation package to the project-affected people, but the NBA did not accept that. In 1996, the Supreme Court stayed the project which further delayed the dam work.
  • On October 18, 2000, the SC in a 2-1 majority judgement, allowed the construction of the dam up to a height of 138m, subject to the completion of the rehabilitation process.
  • The dam whose construction began in 1987 was finally inaugurated by the PM on September 17, 2017.

What is the present issue?

  • The Gujarat government has filled up the Sardar Sarovar Dam to its full capacity recently. This has left many families under risk who are still living in the submergence zone (to simply understand, the zone that is under threat of coming under water in case there is an overflow).
  • Activists complain that they have yet not received due compensation and rehabilitation though the government states otherwise.
  • Also, the water level in the submergence areas are rising steadily.

The present scenario:

  • The flow of freshwater in the river Narmada has considerably decreased.
  • So, because of lower freshwater pressure on account of the dam, the sea water has ingressed several km inland, rendering vast fertile lands saline. 
  • With some 10,000 hectares of agricultural land having been destroyed, the farmers of the area are devastated. 
  • Just in Bharuch, a fishing community of around 30,000 has lost its livelihood.
  • The estuary’s once-thriving population of the coveted Hilsa fish is in danger due to the ingress. 

The concerns:

  • The water level in the submergence area of the dam is rising steadily like in Barwani and Dhar districts of MP.
  • According to the NBA group, about 40,000 families around the dam will have to be displaced in case the water level in the dam reaches its optimum capacity.
  • Also, according to the World Bank, more assessment of its environmental and social implications were needed to be done before the construction of the dam started.

The positives of the dam:

  • Irrigation – The Sardar Sarovar Project will provide irrigation facilities to 18.45 lac ha. of land, covering 3112 villages of 73 talukas in 15 districts of Gujarat. It will also irrigate 2,46,000 ha. of land in the strategic desert districts of Barmer and Jallore in Rajasthan and 37,500 ha. in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra through lift.
  • Drinking water – A special allocation of 0.86 MAF of water has been made to provide drinking water to 173 urban centres and 9490 villages  within and out-side command in Gujarat for present population of 28 million and prospective population of over 40 million by the year 2021.
  • Power – here are two power houses viz. River Bed Power House and Canal Head Power House with an installed capacity of 1200 MW and 250 MW respectively. The power would be shared by three states – Madhya Pradesh – 57%, Maharashtra – 27% and Gujarat 16%. This will provide a useful peaking power to western grid of the country which has very limited hydel power production at present.
  • Flood protection – it will also provide flood protection to riverine reaches measuring 30,000 ha. covering 210 villages and Bharuch city and a population of 4.0 lac in Gujarat.
  • Wildlife – Wild life sanctuaries viz. “Shoolpaneshwar wildlife sanctuary” on left Bank, Wild Ass Sanctuary in little Rann of Kachchh, Black Buck National Park at Velavadar, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Kachchh, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and Alia Bet at the mouth of River will be benefited.
  • Additional production – SSP would generate electricity. On completion, annual additional agricultural production would be Rs. 1600 crores, power generation and water supply Rs. 175 crores, aggregating about Rs. 2175 crores every year equivalent to about Rs. 6.0 crores a day.

Way ahead:

  • The resettlement and rehabilitation work has to be completed at the earliest.
  • More independent research and assessment of the project needs to be done so that proper steps can be taken.
  • The environmental factors should not be neglected. Development should not be at the cost of environment, the balance has to be maintained.

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