“Tomorrow Sardar Sarovar Dam will be dedicated to the nation. This project will benefit lakhs of farmers and help fulfil people’s aspirations,” PM Modi tweeted on Saturday. After inaugurating the dam at Kevadia in Narmada district, the Prime Minister will later address a rally in Dabhoi – an hour’s drive from Ahmedabad – to mark the end of the fortnight-long Narmada Mahotsav, launched by the Gujarat government to celebrate the completion of the dam.
The PM’s visit to his home state comes less than a week after he hosted his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe where the two launched India’s first bullet train project in Ahmedabad.
With the state gearing up for polls later this year, the ruling BJP has turned the inauguration of the dam into a massive political event. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had called the project as “Gujarat’s lifeline”, saying that the agriculture income and production of farmers in the state more than doubled because
The 1.2-km-long dam, which is 163 metres deep, will irrigate over 18 lakh hectares of land in the state, according to officials; the water from Narmada will flow into over 9,000 villages through a canal network, Sardar Sarovar Nigam Limited (SSNL) officials said, explaining the paybacks of the project.
The project has been mired in several controversies ever since its foundation stone was laid on April 5, 1961 by the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by social activist Medha Patkar, has been protesting against the project, raising several environmental concerns. In 1996, construction work on the dam was suspended following a stay by the Supreme Court which gave a go-ahead, four years later, but with conditions.
Soon after inaugurating the dam, PM Modi will head to Sadhu Bet, an island in the river Narmada where a 182-metre-tall statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – called the ‘Statue of Unity’ – and a memorial complex dedicated to the country’s first Home Minister are being constructed.