The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has cleared the final raising of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat by lowering its gates and impounding water in the reservoir up to full level of 138.68 metres, aiming to meet water needs of drought-prone areas in the state and Rajasthan.
The move, cleared by the NCA yesterday, will result in increase in the dam's live storage capacity from 1,565 million cubic metres (MCM) to 5,740 MCM or by 267 per cent.
The decision would also help irrigate 8 lakh hectares of area, provide drinking water to one lakh people and increased hydro electricity generation by 150 mega watt, the Union water resources ministry has said in a statement.
Activists pitching for rehabilitation of project-affected people though termed the NCA's move as "illegal", contending that the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh, another beneficiary state of the project, has not followed a Supreme Court order in this regard.
The apex court had on February 8 cleared the decks for monetary compensation for the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar project by ordering Rs 60 lakh for each of the families which are likely to be displaced.
The ministry said that the last time raising of the dam was cleared was on June 12, 2014, when permission for phase-I construction of piers, overhead bridge and installation of gates in open or raised position was permitted.
At that time, the effective height of the dam remained at 121.92 metres with backwater levels of 134.32 metres at the dam site.
Prior to the fresh clearance by the NCA, its environment sub-group, chaired by Union environment secretary Ajay Narayan Jha, reviewed the implementation of environment safeguard measures on May 1.
"And after observing substantial progress, recommended phase-II proposal of lowering the gates and impounding of water in the reservoir to 138.68 metres. The environment sub- group has also asked the state governments to complete leftover works by June 30," the statement said.
The NCA's Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group chaired by Union social justice and empowerment ministry Secretary G Latha Krishna Rao reviewed the progress of resettlement and rehabilitation and opinions received from grievance redressal authorities (GRAs) of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra yesterday.
"The state governments have assured to address all issues of project-affected families on priority basis in accordance with Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal award, liberalised policies of the state governments and Supreme Court order dated February 8, 2017," the statement said.
The NCA permitted the dam's final raising following the procedure laid down by an apex court order.
Reacting to the development, the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM) said the NCA's decision violates the recent SC judgment given that the order has allegedly not been followed and termed the latest development as "wrong and unfortunate".
"Nothing has been done about resettlement and rehabilitation of affected villagers. So, the NCA's decision is in violation of the SC's recent judgment. If filling water is in the interest of people, so is rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected ones," said Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM national convener.