Fifty-six years after the foundation stone for the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river was laid, the Gujarat government on Saturday got permission from the Centre to shut the gates of this controversy-hit structure, marking the "completion" of the project.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel on Saturday visited the site and ordered the closure of the gates.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the permission to close the gates of the dam on Saturday.
"Although the gates of the dam are closed today, it will open the gates of development for Gujarat," he told reporters in Gandhinagar. "The project is a lifeline for Gujarat."
"This is a historic day for Gujarat, as the government led by Narendra Modi has fulfilled the wish of the people of the state, who were yearning to see the completion of this project for decades," he said.
The foundation stone for the dam was laid in 1961 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and with the permission to close its 30 gates today by the Modi-led government, it took 56 years for the dam to be completed.
With the closing of the gates, the height of one of the biggest water reservoirs in the country will be 138 meters and the storage capacity 4.75 million cubic metre (MCM).
At present, the height of the dam is 121.92 meters and the water storage capacity is 1.25 MCM.
Deputy CM Patel said, "The huge volume of water in the dam will solve the water problems of the state, which regularly faces drought-like situation in the parched areas of Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat."
"Drinking water problems will be a thing of past, droughts will be better tackled and water will be available for irrigation even if the rains are deficient," Patel said.
The project, which was inaugurated in 1961, got delayed due to several reasons, one of the prominent being opposition to it by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by social activist Medha Patkar.
The construction work for the dam was suspended in 1996, after the NBA activists obtained a stay order from the apex court, raising environmental and rehabilitation issues.
It was only after the Supreme Court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of the construction of the dam that the work on it had resumed.
However, the apex court had set a condition that permission to increase the dam height would be given in parts after the project-affected-people (PAP) are resettled or compensated.
The Sardar Sarovar Project will provide irrigation facilities to 18.45 lac hectares of land, covering 3,112 villages of 73 talukas in 15 districts of Gujarat, through a canal network.
It will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the strategically important desert districts of Barmer and Jallore in Rajasthan and 37,500 hectares in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra through lift.
A special allocation of 0.86 million cubic feet (MAF) of water has been made to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages (53 per cent of total 18,144 villages of Gujarat) for present population of 28 million and prospective population of over 40 million by the year 2021.
In the Sardar Sarovar project there are two power houses — river bed powerhouse and canal head powerhouse — with an installed capacity of 1,200 MW and 250 MW respectively.
The power would be shared among three states - Madhya Pradesh (57 per cent) Maharashtra (27 per cent) and Gujarat (16 per cent).
This will provide a useful peaking power to the western grid of the country, which has very limited hydel power production at present.