On his 67th birthday today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar dam amidst much show.
A rally was organized in Vadodara, 55 kms from the dam site in Navagam in Gujarat. Modi addressed the rally and said that the Dam is a symbol of India’s emerging power, and will speed up growth in the region, especially in the border areas, where it would supply water to thousands of BSF soldiers.
Addressing thousands who had gathered to witness the inauguration of the long pending Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), PM Modi said that this is an engineering miracle that would turn over the water situation in the West, and supply water not only to a million households, but also to those serving the country along the border in extreme temperatures.
He stated that despite the project being the most disputed in India’s history, thousands of rallies and protests and unavailability of loans from the World Bank, the Sardar Sarovar Dam can finally be opened for use by the public, and that even after efforts by innumerable people to stop its construction, the Dam will come into operation, given the contributions of the thousands of temples banked by the Narmada.
However, as every story, the SSP also has two faces.
Ever since the closure of the gates of the dam months earlier, River Narmada has recorded a notable rise in its water level, submerging the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial site Rajghat, Dhar, and other prominent villages on the banks of the Narmada.
The affected people who were promised compensation in the form of houses or cash against their homes being submerged by the project have not yet been paid, and are left with no other option but to come down on the streets for protest.
The Narmada water rose from 123.6 to 128.5 meters on Friday, and inundated the memorial site completely, forcing people to vacate their homes.
The people of Chota Barda village in the affected Dhar district of Gujarat on Friday lodged a protest under the leadership of Medha Patkar (founder, Narmada Bachao Andolan) against opening the gates of the Dam for filling it until rehabilitation of the people of the Narmada is completed.
However, Modi still inaugurated the Dam amidst festivities of his birthday celebration, dedicating this to the nation, and to Sardar Vallabhai Patel, after whom the dam is named.
The dam has been a long debated issue and a matter of dispute in the country.