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The Hindu on : The Narmada story

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Monday, April 12, 1999

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The Narmada story

Sir, - In his article, ``People versus large dams'' (TheHindu, April 6), Mr. Kuldeep Nayar, has narrated the woeful plight of the displaced persons of the Sardar Sarovar dam of Gujarat. Originally the proposed height of the dam was 111 feet only. Somehow, the then MP Chief Minister, D.P. Mishra, moved by the plight of the desert people of Gujarat, agreed to give 8 MAF water. When I succeeded him as the CM, I felt that desert could not be made fertile. The desert area was below the sea-level. Since there was a commitment, I agreed to it. Dr. K. L. Rao was the Union Minister of State for Irrigation. He favoured Gujarat and said, ``8 MAF water should be given by flood.'' I resisted it and said that four MAF water would be given by flood and four MAF water after generation of power - that too because I was required to give 8 MAF. He said that 20 MAF of Narmada water could not be consumed for irrigation by MP, and so it would be a waste. Within a fortnight, a chart was submitted to him that 40 MAF water was needed for the Narmada basin, the most fertile land in the country. The construction of small dams in the upper-strata was proposed. The tributaries, small rivers, seasonal streams, flooding streams of rainy season were all proposed to be bunded. It involved no displacement and a nominal deforestation. I fought the case of Narmada for MP and made it free from dispute up to the Bargi point and completed the dam in 1969 when I resigned. No canal has been dug all these 30 years and the investment has been a waste.

Water has gone scarce. From 28 MACF it has come down to 23 MACF. The catchment is in MP, the submersion is in MP, the erosion of soil and deforestation are in MP, but who cares for it? The height of Sardar Sarovar is going up.

I was succeeded by Mr. Shyama Charan Shukla, who began to talk of power generation. I requested him not to do so, since power generation was height x quantity of water. MP would be a loser. But he ignored my advice.

The year I resigned I had made a budgetary provision for Jalsindhi, the last and lowest dam of MP, in agreement with the then Maharashtra C.M., V.P. Naik. As ill luck would have it, it was abandoned. It was to limit the height of the Sardar Sarovar to 146 feet.

Madhya Pradesh, situated on the plateaus of the Vindhyas and the Satpuras, will be left high and dry due to all these reasons.

Govind Narain Singh, New Delhi

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