Amid Protests by Locals and Activists, 26 Gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam on River Narmada Opened in Gujarat

File photo of Sardar Sarovar Dam (Reuters)

File photo of Sardar Sarovar Dam (Reuters)

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel reached the dam, located near Kevadiya in Narmada district, early Friday morning to witness the historic occasion.

Barwani: Over two years after the installation of gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river, 26 of its total 30 gates were opened on Friday morning following heavy inflow of water from upstream, the Gujarat government said. The locals who were staging a protest ended their demonstration after the administration met them during the wee hours on Friday.

Led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) volunteers, the locals in Barwani had started an indefinite sit-in at Rajghat in Barwani district since Aug 7 opposing the submergence of 193 villages despite ‘incomplete’ rehabilitation of farmers and other locals in said areas.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel reached the dam, located near Kevadiya in Narmada district, early Friday morning to witness the historic occasion.

Prior to the installation of gates, the height of the dam was 121.92 meters. In 2017, when the gates were installed, the height of the dam rose to 138.72 meters.

In March 2017, the state government had informed the Legislative Assembly that the work of installing all the 30 gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam was completed. In June that year, the state got permission from the Centre to shut the gates of this dam.

However, as the water level had reached 131 m mark on the intervening night of Thursday and Friday following heavy rainfall in the region, the floodgates of the mega dam were opened and water started to approach the agitation site at around 10pm on Thursday night.

The protesters however remained adamant on continuing their dharna.

Collector Amit Tomar accompanied by senior officials had personally reached the site to have a dialogue with the protesters and after the senior officer accepted various demands, the dharna finally ended at 3am this morning.

The water had already reached the Datt temple on the banks of river Narmada and police with the help of NDRF jawans rescued the protesters and locals and sent them to safety.

The NBA in a statement said that the administration has agreed for a joint survey of affected areas, to include NBA representatives in government rehabilitation committees, a meeting with Narmada Valley Development Authority soon and to open dam floodgates open unless the rehabilitation process was completed.

The organisation however affirmed that they won’t relent unless all the affected people get justice. The organisation fighting against the Sardar Sarovar project in last few decades alleged that the heavy rains also exposed the ill-arrangement of disaster management in the region.

According to existing provisions, the dam water level can’t exceed 131 metre mark.

NBA founder Medha Patkar could not be reached for comments on the incident despite several attempts.

Sardar Sarovar Dam is a mega water project established by first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961. The project supplies water and electricity to four states—Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

In a release, the government said that 18 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and 11 teams of the State Disaster Response Force have been deployed at different locations to help the people.

At present, 154 roads in Chhota Udepur and Tapi districts were shut due to heavy water-logging.

The State Emergency Operation Centre is in touch with all the districts and keeping a close watch on the situation, the release said.

With inputs from PTI.

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