Burning Issues


-Shivani Thakur

The earliest civilizations be it Harrapan, Chinese, Egyptian all had one thing in common; all settled near rivers- the Indus, Hwang-ho, or the Nile. Rivers are a source of fresh water. From early on rivers have played a major role in advancement of any society. Since then a major concentration of population is found near rivers. The Indian sub continent is interspersed with so many rivers, yet there is always crisis of water all over the country. If in urban areas there is shortage of drinking water, in rural areas the problem is mainly for irrigation.

The recent Narmada feud has brought forth the question of construction of dams. The foremost vocalist of Narmada Bachao Andolan Ms. Medha Patkar was recently on hunger strike. She is advocating rehabilitation of all the people who will be displaced (a total of 35,000) if the height of dam is raised from 110.64 m to 121.90 m. This project is actually more than a century old. The first record of proposal of dam to be built was recorded in 1863.The first plan was formulated in 1947. In 1959,after a survey a proposal for dam, Sardar Sarover Project site was prepared. Pandit Nehru laid the foundation in 1961.The project work was started in 1987 after acquiring clearances from center with necessary environmental go ahead. But in 2000 the Supreme Court halted the construction of SSP to a height of 138 meters. In 2006 the go ahead was given to raise its height to 121.90 m.

The agitation by Medha Patkar is a question mark on the government agencies because a project which has been on paper for so long, has not only created an uncertain future for displaced people but also millions of farmers who could have benefited from its construction. Dams are lifelines for our country. Inspite of so many rivers crisscrossing our country yet many areas still do not get enough water for drinking or irrigation. The re- routing of water through a system of canals makes it possible for all the far-flung areas to receive water.

Dams are also a source of cheap power. Hydroelectric power is a better option than burning of fossil fuel, which are responsible for the greenhouse effect. The SSP project is set to irrigate 1.8 million hectares of land in Gujarat and 75,000 hectares in Rajasthan and generate 1450 MW of power and supply water to 23 million people in Gujarat. Madhya Pradesh along with these states will also benefit. A semi-arid region near Ahmedabad, Bhal is reaping benefits from this project. The water traveling about 280km has reached the area where wheat production has risen from 12 mounds per acre to 35. They have stopped pumping water from ground for their crops. The final implementation of this project will be by 2010.Already the project has been delayed by two years. A further delay would only hamper in development. It’s in the hands of the government to rehabilitate the people soon. The submergence of the areas is still three months away, till then there is plenty of time to move people and compensate them with land in other areas.

The government has the means to rehabilitate the people and thus making life easier for the ones displaced and the ones relying on the dam to become operational.

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