Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Sardar Sarovar Project - Narmada Dam and Gujarat

The Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on River Narmada has been touted as the "Jeeva Dori- The Life Line" of Gujarat and a permanent solution to the drinking water and irrigation needs of the whole State for over three decades now. In fact I like most others in Gujarat grew up believing that the Narmada dam will turn our home State into Nandanvan till good sense prevailed. 

Although the Narmada Bachao Andolan has successfully challenged the claim that the SSP will solve the water vows of the State, Gujarat Government continued to spend over eighty percentage of the State's irrigation budget on this single project for many decades now. Just two years ago in 2017, the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, who was the Chief Minister of Gujarat for fourteen years' before he became the Prime Minister in 2014, inaugurated and dedicated the Narmada dam to the Nation and declared that it will now bring prosperity to the whole state. However the much hyped Narmada Dam continues to delude the people of the state and the water woes continue as before. 

Fifty nine years since the foundation stone of the project was laid and two years since the Sardar Sarovar dam was dedicated to the nation, it would be important to bring to the fore the water woes in the state as discussed in the main stream media and social media now and the history behind the project.

I bring here the news of water scarcity in Gujarat in the year 2019 as reported in the Times of India and discussion on the subject on my Face Book wall since it is important for wider readership:

Nandini Oza FB Wall:

"As activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan, some 25-28 years ago, we used to travel the length and breadth of Gujarat year after year, trying to explain to the people of Gujarat that the much hyped Jeeva Doori- the Life Line of Gujarat, the Narmada- Sardar Sarovar dam Will Not solve even the drinking water problem of Gujarat forget meeting irrigation needs of the whole state.

But instead of engaging with us, we faced extreme hostility and even physical attacks in Gujarat!

Called anti-development, anti- Gujarat and even anti- nationals back then, what Hurt the Most was that most of the senior Gandhians, established Academics, even many of the NGOs working on water problems in Gujarat either opposed us vociferously or at best kept us at arm's length. (Of course there were so many brave-hearts too).

Today as I read the following headlines in the Times of India: "Dam, It's Empty!" and "Pyasa Gujarat", sitting in my home State with a kind of stone heart detachment, I still cannot stop feeling: “we told you so!"

(Let me clarify that the Sardar Sarovar Dam is not fully Empty this year yet but it will continue to provide water to the politically strong areas of Ahmedabad and Baroda including Sabarmati River Front, not in the original plan and at the terrible cost of the drought prone areas of Gujarat and as the Narmada river goes dry in the downstream of the dam.)

Times of India 30 April 2019

Important Responses to the FB Post: 

Pravin Naik i do think that it is not sardar sarovar but the other dams which have severe water shortage. if any thing , sardar sarovar will see gujrat through this summer for drinking water at least................... unless of course, it is misused for topping up the sabarmati river front or some such project.
Nandini Oza  Pravin Naik already the down stream of Sardar Sarovar right up to Bharuch is facing water distress. Even Chota Udaipur near the dam is facing water crisis. Of course some pockets including Ahmedabad and Baroda which are not supposed to get Narmada waters as per the original plan at all, as well as Sabarmati River Front will get Narmada waters. And that is also what we were saying at that time. And Narmada project was to solve the water problems permanently across the whole state!  Besides the photo of the bridge in the newspaper –Times of India Ahmedabad city edition 30-April-19 is of the Empty River Narmada at the golden bridge, Bharuch.

 Poonam DavĂ© What a travesty....

Sanjay Salunkhe Truth nobody willing to listen that time... It's harsh reality now

Sadhana Dadhich it hurts deeply. I see so many faces of satyagrahis.,beauty of river, lovely rich nimad .all lost because no one was ready to listen

Seema Singh The voice of the people was unheard, neglected and considered as anti-national. We have faced the anger of being a supporter to the movement. If they realise now. Don't know where are we heading towards. Sad.
Veena Mistry · Sad indeed but riverfront as a showpiece was more important.

Veena Mistry · Rahul Banerjee
Agree. My statement was sarcastic.

Krishna Sinh Jhala Nandini Oza
I vividly remember your visit along with other activists to our village Rajpar, near surendranagar, about 20 years ago, to help the canal affected farmers get a fair compensation.

Nandini Oza Krishna Sinh Jhala yes, it was very important meeting organised by you. The effort was yours. I still recall your lovely haveli and hospitality. Would like to come one day and see the impact of the canals and how these are functioning and of course meet up with you and your family.
I am indeed happy to reconnect.

Krishna Sinh Jhala Nandini Oza you are welcome anytime. Your visit and the meeting we had made a big impact on the authorities who would otherwise have taken away the lands for a pittance. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Another Discussion on the Sardar Sarovar Project in April 2019 on Social Media

From the Face Book Wall of Amita Baviskar April 23

Ghanshyam Shah always has an astute analysis of Gujarat politics.

Nandini Oza But Ghanshyam Shah has miserably failed when he declared support to the Sardar Sarovar dam when the project had just started and never made people of Gujarat aware of even the failure of R and R (resettlement and rehabilitation). Of course now once the dam is built he has raised the issue of how it is not supplying water where needed.
One of the early pro SSP booklet is written by him. And while people of Gujarat were not ready to accept Chimanbhai' s (Patel's) claims on SSP, they looked upon academics and Gandhians.
Amita Baviskar
Amita Baviskar And this is relevant to his analysis of current electoral politics in Gujarat because...?

Nandini Oza
Nandini Oza Amita Baviskar my response is to his not so astute analysis earlier of Gujarat politics played out for several decades around water and Narmada dam by all political parties which he refers to now in the above article.
Ghanshyam Shah
Ghanshyam Shah Nandini, thank you for your comment. ..And I do not feel bad...I am not a regular user of facebook...Yes, I did not join and participate NBA like you and others, but did I support the government, political of capitalist development, pro-dam lobby? I do not know. ..i may mention that even before the NBA came into existence I wrote a paper on Political economy of irrigation and rehabilitation. I wrote even in Gujarati that the present phenomena of Modi is a product of the 1980s... anti-reservation, pro -dam politics, .. In fact, I have traced its origin to 1974 so-called navnirman movement .. any way such arguments have no meaning as it does not lead us anywhere...I am in a mood to ask and interrogate myself.. our politics... let me, however, admit that I was not then and also now against dam as such..per se.. We can discuss this.. please send me your email .. There is a long chapter on Narmada in my recent book.We can discuss... .thank you again for your comments..