Gandhinagar, June 17 (IANS) All the 30 gates of the mega Sardar Sarovar Dam in south Gujarat were closed on Sunday, and would help state triple the water storage in the dam from 1.4 million acre feet (MAF) of water to 4.75 MAF.
The ceremony to close the dam gates was performed by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel at dam site in Kevadiya Colony, after the state received permission from the Narmada Control Authority to do so.
The augmented storage would also help the state supply water to rain deficient areas of Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
According to Met department, the state is likely to observe deficient rains this monsoon, which may not augur well for the ruling establishment in the year of assembly elections.
The closure is expected to benefit 2.9 crore people in the state, provide drinking water to 9,663 villages (a little over 50 per cent of state’s villages) and 131 urban centers, irrigation facilities to 10 lakh farmers over six lakh hectares of land, taking the overall irrigation reach in the state to 1.8 million hectares.
“Today is a golden day for Gujarat, with closure of gates at the Sardar Sarovar Dam. This has opened the floodgates for state’s development. The dream of Sardar Patel has been realised,” said Rupani.
The mega water project has seen major ups and downs since its foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961. Several environmentalists raised concerns about environmental impact of such a large project. Activists as Media Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan opposed the project citing poor record with regards to relief and rehabilitation in the catchment area of the dam. This had led to several multilateral agencies withdraw financial support to the project, forcing state government to search for alternate means to fund the project that is generally considered by people as ‘Lifeline of Gujarat’.
Even then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had gone on a 51-hour fast in 2005, seeking permission to raise the dam height to 138 metres – a measure which only became a reality when he became Prime Minister in 2014.