SARDAR SAROVAR PROJECT (SSP)
Compiled by Patrick McCully, IRN
May 25, 1994
Construction in 1994
World Bank Involvement
How to Meet Gujarat's Water Needs
Submergence and Displacement
Position of the Madhya Pradesh Government
Indian Review Committee
The first recorded proposal for damming the Narmada River and
diverting its water to irrigate crops in Gujarat was made by a
British entrepreneur in 1863. The first serious study of the development
of the whole basin began in 1947. After independence these investigations
were taken up by various government committees which proposed
numerous dams on the Narmada and its tributaries. The first proposal
for a dam at the Sardar Sarovar site was made in 1959 and preliminary
construction began in 1961. Disagreements between the states through
which the Narmada flows about how to share its water, however,
led to the project being suspended. In 1969 the Narmada Water
Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) was set up to decide the inter-state
allocation of water and the costs of the dams and other infrastructure
needed to exploit the river. The tribunal's decision or 'Award'
was made in 1979. Full-scale construction of Sardar Sarovar began
The Sardar Sarovar Dam is on the Narmada River in Gujarat state,
170 kilometres (106 miles) upstream from where the river flows
into the Gulf of Khambhat in the Arabian Sea. The Narmada is the
largest westward flowing river in India. A few kilometres downstream
from the dam site on the north bank is Kevadia Colony, the town
built to house the construction workers and related bureaucracy.
Vadgam, the first village behind the dam, starts around one kilometre
from the dam site and stretches out for several more kilometres
along the north bank. About 15 km upstream on the south bank a
small tributary running into the Narmada forms the Gujarat-Maharashtra
border. On the eastern (Maharashtra) side of the creek is the
village of Manibeli, a focus of resistance to the project where
the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA -- Save the Narmada Movement)
maintains an office.
The dam is a 1210 m (3970 feet) long wall of concrete across the
valley. It is designed to impound a reservoir with a full level
of 139 m (455 feet) above sea level (asl). The middle section
of the dam is planned to reach a height of 146.5 m (481 feet)
asl. The bed of the river at the dam site is at 17 m (56 feet)
asl so the planned height of the dam above the river bed is 129.5
m (425 feet).
The main canal leading from the reservoir is scheduled to be 460
km (286 miles) long, eventually reaching the state of Rajasthan.
It is 250 m (820 feet) wide at its head near the dam and planned
to be 100 m (328 feet) wide at the Rajasthan border. A network
of secondary canals totalling 75,000 km (46,600 miles) in length
is planned to deliver the irrigation water to farmers. Large electric-powered
pumping stations will need to be built to deliver water to the
Saurashtra and Kutch branches of the canal system. A large powerhouse
containing turbines and related machinery is being built at the
dam and a smaller one at the head of the canal. A weir is to be
built at Garudeshwar, around 16 kilometres downstream of the dam,
with a capacity to store six hours of the maximum flow through
the Sardar Sarovar turbines. This water can be pumped back into
the reservoir at times of low daily electricity demand and then
released through the turbines again to generate electricity at
times of peak demand.
To oversee the implementation of the dams on the Narmada the NWDT
set up the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) composed of senior
representatives of the governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya
Pradesh (MP) and Rajasthan, and chaired by the Water Resources
Secretary (the top civil servant in the central government Ministry
of Water Resources). The NCA has established Environment and Rehabilitation
Sub-Groups, chaired respectively by the Secretaries of the central
government Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the
Ministry of Welfare. SSP is being implemented by the Sardar Sarovar
Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL or 'the Nigam'), a corporation wholly
owned by the Government of Gujarat (GoG). The construction of
the dam is contracted to Jay Prakash (J.P.) Associates, who have
a virtual monopoly over major dam projects in India, and the construction
of the canals to a number of smaller contractors.
Completion of the dam is scheduled for 1997. The canal network
will not be finished until 2025 at the earliest. The annual construction
schedule varies between different official sources. At the start
of the monsoon in June 1993 ­p; the end of the 1992/93 construction
season ­p; the lowest blocks of the dam were at 61 m asl (the
sides of the dam are much higher). The lowest blocks are currently
(mid-May, 1994) at 69-70 m with the rest of the middle section
of the dam at 80 m.
Construction in 1994
According to a Supreme Court decision of August 1990, 'oustees'
(the people to be displaced by the reservoir) should be properly
resettled at least six months before submergence of their homes
or lands. Concerns over the slow pace of resettlement and unfinished
environmental studies led the NCA Environment Sub-Group to recommend
in late 1993 that the dam should not be built above 67 m asl during
the 1993/94 construction season and that the temporary construction
sluice gates at the foot of the dam should not be closed. The
NCA accepted this recommendation. The sluice gates allowed the
river ­p; outside of the monsoon ­p; to flow under the dam
and prevented any permanent impoundment of water. During the monsoon
(generally early June to late August), the small temporary sluices
could pass only a small fraction of the swollen river and the
rest of the water would back up and flow over the top of the dam.
At the beginning of January 1994, work on raising the dam was
suspended with the height of the lowest blocks already above the
NCA's height limit, at around 69 m. On January 11, a statement
issued after a meeting in New Delhi between Prime Minister Narasimha
Rao and the Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP, said
that there would be no further construction above 67m unless people
were rehabilitated 'well ahead of time' (the statement falsely
claimed that the dam was then at 61 m). On February 23, however,
the dam authorities without notice closed the steel shutters on
the ten temporary sluice gates and started to raise the dam wall
The day after the sluices were closed the Gujarat High Court stayed
any further work on closure of the sluices, preventing the authorities
from permanently filling the sluices with concrete. The authorities
told the High Court that the chains on the steel shutters had
been cut making the closure irreversible. Within two weeks of
the closure the river rose to the height of the next set of openings
in the dam, the 'river sluices' at 53 m asl. The level of the
water behind the dam is now around 60 m. Houses and fields in
four villages have been flooded and access roads cut off.
The number of families to be affected by submergence during the
coming monsoon will depend upon how much further the dam is raised
and how much rain falls. There are no gates in the dam which can
be opened to let flood waters through. Official estimates of the
number at risk during each monsoon are based on calculations of
the height of water in a 1 in 100 year flood. The Government of
Maharashtra (GoM) has cited figures for the number of families
at risk in the state this year which range from 148 to over 2000.
The NBA says that 500 families in Maharashtra are at risk of losing
their houses and many more will lose crops. GoG claims that all
its oustees have been resettled: the NBA says that 400-500 families
in Gujarat are still in areas at risk this year. The Government
of MP (GoMP) now says 15 villages are at risk, three of which
could be totally submerged. In total, the NBA believes that at
least 40 villages are at risk in the three states.
Shripad Dharmadhikary of the NBA wrote in early May about what
is likely to happen during this monsoon:
- "Most families would be stranded . . . or dumped by
the government at inadequate, ill-prepared 'resettlement' sites
. . . Many families would face a worse situation as the rising
waters would fill up the numerous streams and gullies, cutting
off access roads, and slowly turning the undulating region into
a series of isolated islands . . . The houses could be marooned
for as long as 4-6 months."
The families threatened are not only those who have refused to
move because of their opposition to SSP, but also many who have
accepted that the dam will be built and have asked for resettlement
but who have not been given anywhere to go.
World Bank Involvement
The World Bank agreed to lend $450 million for SSP in 1985. After
years of criticism the Bank in 1991 commissioned a team of four
independent experts to review the resettlement and environment
components of the project. The Independent Review was chaired
by an ex-head of the UN Development Programme, Bradford Morse.
His deputy was Thomas Berger, a Canadian lawyer known for his
work on human rights and environmental issues. Their report, released
in June 1992, strongly criticised the project and the World Bank's
involvement in it, concluding that:
- ". . . the Sardar Sarovar Projects as they stand are
flawed, that resettlement and rehabilitation of all those displaced
by the Projects is not possible under prevailing circumstances,
and that the environmental impacts of the Projects have not been
properly considered or adequately addressed. Moreover, we believe
that the Bank shares responsibility with the borrower for the
situation that has developed."
The international pressure on the World Bank to withdraw built
up over the following months. Finally the Bank realized that the
damaging publicity SSP was creating was going to get worse and
that it needed to find a face-saving method of extricating itself
from the project. It decided that the best course of action for
both itself and the Indian government was for GoI to request the
Bank to pull out. A deal was made and on March 30, 1993, India
formally requested the Bank to cancel the $170 million remaining
to be disbursed for the project. Around half the money spent on
the project so far has come from the World Bank.
On the same day as the loan was cancelled the Bank's General Counsel,
Mr Ibrahim Shihata, wrote a memorandum reminding the South Asia
Department that notwithstanding the cancellation all the provisions
of its 1985 loan agreements were still in place. The agreements
contain several conditions on the resettlement and rehabilitation
of the people to be displaced. The World Bank is thus still legally
bound to ensure that the project authorities comply with these
provisions. These conditions are being widely and comprehensively
broken. Non-project specific loans from the World Bank to India
may still be helping to fund SSP.
SSP's backers claim the project will irrigate a 'command area'
of 1.8 million hectares (4.45m acres) in Gujarat and 75,000 hectares
(185,000 acres) in Rajasthan; have an installed power generation
capacity of 1450 megawatts; provide domestic water to over 2.35
million people in 8235 villages and 135 towns in Gujarat; and
prevent flooding downstream.
- Narmada Flow: The NWDT allocated the Narmada water on the
assumption that in three out of every four years at least 28
million acre feet (MAF) (34.5 billion cubic metres) of water
flowed down the river. However measurements of the actual flow
between 1948 and 1993 show that the 75% dependable flow has been
only 22.75 MAF. This reduces the share of water available to
Gujarat by at least 16%.
- Irrigation Efficiency: The irrigation efficiency of SSP (the
amount of irrigation water which actually reaches crops) is assumed
in project documents to be 60%. Experience with existing irrigation
schemes and independent studies of the SSP irrigation plans indicate
that this is unrealistically high. The World Bank's 1991 'India
Irrigation Sector Review' states:
- "Irrigation efficiency in India has often been assumed
at 60%, whereas a worldwide sample of irrigation commands indicates
37-40% efficiency in areas of low rainfall under reasonably good
management, and in higher rainfall zones, an average of 23%.
Most irrigation commands in India probably have an irrigation
efficiency of 20-35%. If assumed efficiency is 60% and actual
efficiency is 30%, actual water availability will be half the
assumption at design."
- Narmada Sagar: The potential benefits of SSP are based on
the assumption that it will be able to exploit regulated releases
of water from the Narmada Sagar Projects (NSP) upstream in Madhya
Pradesh. NSP (which consists of one major dam (Narmada Sagar)
and two medium ones (Omkareshwar and Maheshwar)) and SSP are
supposed to work as part of a single system. The NWDT stated
that MP should "complete the construction of Narmada Sagar
Dam . . . concurrently with or earlier than the construction
of Sardar Sarovar Dam." According to the World Bank's 1985
Staff Appraisal Report for SSP, NSP would be operational by 1993.
However, construction on Narmada Sagar began only in 1992 and
is now virtually at a halt with the dam not yet above foundation
level. The Chief Minister of MP has recently said that the state
does not have the money to continue NSP or other dams on the
Narmada. According to the NWDT, without Narmada Sagar the irrigation
water available to SSP would be reduced by at least 17%; according
to the World Bank, the available water would be reduced by 30%.
British hydrological consultants HR Wallingford (commissioned
by the World Bank in 1992), concluded that the Sardar Sarovar
reservoir would fill up with sediment two to three times faster
­p; severely shortening the lifetime of the project ­p;
if NSP is not built.
- Unsuitability of Land for Irrigation: Large parts of the
area slated to be irrigated have soils which are highly prone
to waterlogging and salinization and are unsuited to canal irrigation.
- Water Intensive Crops: Despite assertions from GoG that water-intensive
sugar cane growing will not be allowed in the SSP command area,
five large sugar cane factories are being built close to the
head of the main canal. Whilst the area to be irrigated has been
calculated on the assumption that an average of 320 mm of water
will be delivered to the fields each year, sugar cane requires
up to 3000 mm. If water is heavily consumed by sugar cane plantations
in the initial reaches of the canal system, much less water will
be available for users further from the dam.
- Little Water for Most Drought-Prone Areas: The project proponents
claim that SSP will solve the severe drought problems of Kutch
and Saurashtra, the two driest parts of Gujarat. However only
1.6% of the total cultivable land of Kutch and 9.24% of the cultivable
land of Saurashtra are in the SSP command area. Both these areas
are at the tail end of the canal system and will be severely
affected by the water shortages in the system ­p; all the
available water is likely to be consumed by the less needy areas
of central Gujarat before it ever reaches Kutch and Saurashtra.
The central government and the World Bank have stated that the
infrastructure to deliver water to Kutch will not be fully developed
until 2025 AD. Gujarat is currently spending 80% of its total
irrigation budget on SSP, depriving smaller irrigation and water
supply projects in Kutch and Saurashtra of funds. These projects
could help alleviate the water crisis in the drought-prone areas
of Gujarat decades before they have a chance of getting water
from the Narmada.
- Power Benefits: The power from SSP is to be generated from
a 1200 MW powerhouse at the dam and a 250 MW powerhouse at the
head of the canal. However the power actually produced will be
much less than the installed capacity, mainly because increasing
amounts of water will be diverted into the canals, reducing the
volume of water available to flow through the turbines at the
dam. When the canal network is fully developed the dam powerhouse
will become redundant as only the highest monsoon flood flows
will be allowed to pass downstream. GoG's own figures show that
firm power generation will drop from 425 MW during the first
stage of the project to a meagre 50 MW at full irrigation development.
Without NSP the power generation potential of SSP will be reduced
by a further 25-28% according to World Bank and GoG figures.
As 16% less water is available in the Narmada than assumed by
the NWDT, the power benefits will be reduced further.
- According to the NWDT, Gujarat will get only 16% of the power
from SSP, the rest being split between Maharashtra (27%) and
MP (57%). Pumping water to the Kutch and Saurashtra branch canals
would consume around 70 megawatts after allowing for the small
amounts of power generated by turbines in the canal system. Large
amounts of power would also be required to pump groundwater into
the canals, an integral part of the irrigation plans; to drain
the command area soils; and to operate the gates and other structures
regulating the flow in the canals.
- Drinking Water: No plans have been completed for how the
drinking water is to be delivered to consumers, nor has any money
been allocated for this component of the project. In 1992 an
NCA publication estimated that tens of billions of rupees ($1
= c.30 rupees) would be required to provide drinking water for
the villages of Kutch and Saurashtra. Gujarat's water allocation
under the NWDT Award did not allow for any village water supply.
The Nigam Chairman admitted in 1992 that 236 of the villages
supposed to receive water are in fact uninhabited, an illustration
of how the drinking water benefits have been exaggerated.
- Flood Control: SSP will severely restrict downstream flows,
encouraging people to move into the areas now prone to flooding.
The reservoir, however, has not been designed to hold back the
occasional large floods at the end of the monsoon, when the reservoir
will already have been filled in preparation for the next dry
season and will therefore have no spare flood storage capacity.
Hydrological consultants HR Wallingford state that: "Prior
to Narmada Sagar Dam, a large flood occurring in the second half
of the monsoon period may be attenuated by less than 20% . .
. The principal danger is that reduced flood risk will lead to
encroachment onto the flood-prone land which may negate any [flood
control] benefit obtained [from SSP]."
There are no firm estimates for the total financial cost of SSP.
In 1983 the project authorities' submission to the World Bank
estimated the cost at 42,040 million rupees in 1981-82 prices,
including the canals but not the infrastructure for supplying
drinking water. In 1985 the World Bank estimated the cost as Rs.136,400
million. In 1991, GoG revised its estimate upwards to Rs.90,000
million. In 1993 it was revealed that this figure does not include
interest of over Rs.17,000 million. The NBA's detailed analysis
estimates the total project cost at current prices including canals
and water distribution as at least Rs.250,000 million ($8,300
million). A 1994 World Bank publication cited the project cost
as $11,400 million (Rs.342,000 million).
GoG has unsuccessfully attempted to privatize the hydropower component
of the project in the last few years. The privatization prospectus
put the cost of the power component at Rs. 29,000 million ­p;
eleven times greater than the cost cited in the 1979 NWDT Award.
The termination of Japanese and World Bank aid, and the large
arrears in the mandatory financial contributions from Maharashtra
and MP are putting further pressure on Gujarat.
In 1985 the World Bank calculated the values of different parameters
at which the project's net financial benefit would become zero.
Some of these are:
- · Total cost +15%
- · Total benefits -13%
- · Power benefits -38%
- · Dam implementation period +22%
- · Irrigated yield -15%
These are single parameter values, all of which will clearly
be exceeded. Taking the combined effect of the changes in the
parameters, the financial cost of the project must vastly exceed
its potential financial benefit.
How to Meet Gujarat's Water Needs
As the project is clearly not going to perform as claimed, what
are needed are not 'alternatives' to SSP, but ways of solving
Gujarat's water crisis, and especially the water shortages in
Kutch and Saurashtra. Several plans have been developed by engineers
and economists (with a minuscule fraction of the resources put
into planning SSP) which show how Gujarat could fulfil the promised
benefits of SSP without its massive financial, human, and environmental
costs, and much more quickly. GoG's own water agencies have stated
that it is possible to deliver water to Kutch and Saurashtra much
more cheaply and quickly than could be possible with SSP.
Ashvin Shah, a Gujarati working with the American Society of Civil
Engineers, notes that SSP is based on outmoded 1950s ideas of
water development, and its planning has failed to benefit from
the past four decades of experience with irrigation and water
conservation schemes in India and elsewhere. With the large scale
implementation of decentralized, small rainwater harvesting schemes,
claims Shah, 21 MAF of rainwater could be collected within Gujarat
each year, 50% more than the amount of water supposed to be made
available by SSP. Shah's plan to solve Gujarat's water crisis
is based on a more equitable sharing of the available water, water
harvesting, water conservation, making existing water supply and
irrigation schemes more efficient, the restoration of degraded
watershed vegetation, and making farming practices less water
and energy intensive. He also advocates the exploitation of Gujarat's
wind, solar, tidal and biomass energy resources.
Submergence and Displacement
The NBA believe that over one million people will lose land or
be otherwise severely affected by the various components of the
project. As comprehensive surveys have not been completed by the
dam authorities the following figures are all estimates.
- Reservoir: Around 91,000 acres (37,000 ha) in Gujarat, Maharashtra
and Madhya Pradesh (MP) will be flooded by the 133 mile (213
km) long reservoir. About 28,660 acres (11,600 ha) of this land
is officially classified as 'forest land' although the actual
amount of tree cover on forest land varies greatly. Official
estimates of the number of families to be displaced (called Project
Affected Persons or PAPs ­p; a 'PAP' is a family unit rather
than a person) have increased around six-fold since 1979. The
latest official estimates from the three states add up to 41,500
PAPs, or 207,500 people, around 80% of them in Madhya Pradesh.
Almost all the PAPs in Gujarat and Maharashtra and perhaps half
of those in MP are adivasis, or tribal people, belonging to a
number of different groups collectively referred to as Bhils.
The adivasis to be displaced by the reservoir live mainly in
14 villages in Gujarat, 33 in Maharashtra and around 53 in MP.
The adivasi areas are mostly remote and hilly with few social
services. The adivasis are largely self-sufficient, growing their
own food and collecting fuel, building materials, fodder, fruits,
and other resources from the forests and commonlands around their
villages, as well as relying on water and fish from the river.
The non-tribal PAPs in MP live in around 140 villages in the
furthest upstream part of the submergence zone, the rich agricultural
plain known as the Nimad. There are also some adivasis living
in this area.
- Canals: Over 200,000 acres (80,000 ha) of land in Gujarat
will be lost to the canal network if it is ever completed. Estimates
for the number of landholders to be affected by the canals range
from 140,000 to 222,800. The World Bank estimated in 1992 that
24,000 of these landholders would lose over a quarter of their
land (the nature of land records in Gujarat means that each 'landholder'
in fact represents 3-4 families). An estimated 10% of the Canal
Affected Families (CAFs) are adivasis. The CAFs are not recognized
as 'Project Affected' and are not eligible for the same compensation
package as the reservoir PAPs. Families who have already lost
land to canals have received cash compensation far below current
- Sanctuary and National Parks: Over 42,000 adivasis would
be displaced by the Shoolpaneshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Gujarat
planned to compensate for the forests and wildlife lost to the
reservoir. There are no arrangements to resettle or compensate
these people. Two National Parks which the central Ministry for
Environment has planned for Madhya Pradesh would displace thousands
- Downstream Displacement: The dam is planned eventually to
store and divert all of the water in the Narmada, except during
the wettest monsoons. This will dry up the river downstream destroying
the livelihood of at least 10,000 fishworker families. It will
also severely affect the water supply to over 700,000 people
in 210 villages and at least five towns.
- Afforestation: Afforestation schemes supposed to compensate
for the trees lost to the reservoir are taking over large amounts
of adivasi land. Although the adivasis have been cultivating
this land for generations they often have no legal rights to
it and therefore receive no compensation for land lost to tree
- Secondary Displacement: Large numbers of people are dependent
on the forest and agricultural land being taken over for resettlement
sites, either for resources such as fuelwood and fodder or for
employment. The Ministry of Environment and Forests recognizes
that between 10-15,000 tribals depend on the 3,707 acres (1,500
ha) of forest land released for resettlement of Maharashtra PAPs
by MoEF in February 1994. No measures have been taken to compensate
these people. An adivasi woman in a group protesting against
the taking over of forest land for resettlement in Maharashtra
was shot dead by police in July 1992.
- Backwater Effect: The larger sediments in the water entering
a reservoir are deposited at its upper end forming a delta and
steadily raising the level of the upper reaches of the reservoir.
A large area of farmland, many villages and even whole towns
in the Nimad could be affected by flooding due to this backwater
effect, yet no proper study of this has been done.
- Kevadia Colony: Work on the infrastructure at Kevadia began
in 1961 and involved the acquisition of land from six adivasi
villages. Around 950 families were displaced. These people have
received little or no compensation.
- Rock-Filled Dykes: A number of holding ponds between the
reservoir and the main canal have been impounded by rock-filled
dykes, displacing around 900 families from five adivasi villages
in Gujarat between 1983 and 1991.
- Marooned Land: The rugged nature of the adivasi areas means
that many families will find their houses and lands isolated
on small islands or inaccessible peninsulas. As no proper land
surveys have been done in Madhya Pradesh, the authorities do
not know how many people will be affected in this way.
The resettlement package differs between the three states. PAPs
from Gujarat, or those from Maharashtra and MP willing to move
to Gujarat, are eligible for a minimum of two hectares (five acres)
of irrigable land in the command area of the project as well as
house sites and some cash compensation. Major sons (those over
18) and landless families (many of the tribal families cultivate
land to which they have no legal title) are also eligible for
two hectares of land under Gujarat's policy. 'Landless' oustees
and major sons settling in Maharashtra receive only one hectare;
those in MP are not eligible for any land.
The authorities claim that around 7000 PAPs have been resettled
in Gujarat and Maharashtra. No oustees have been resettled in
MP. Those who have been resettled face a multitude of hardships
and many have returned to their original villages. The stress
and impoverishment caused by resettlement has increased death
rates among the oustees, especially of children. The problems,
which have been extensively noted by the official resettlement
monitoring agencies and the World Bank's Independent Review include:
- · lack of grazing lands, firewood, drinking water,
and cremation facilities;
- · poor quality, flood-prone cropland, land which is
not irrigable and plots which are less than the two hectares
promised (the supposed two hectare minimum has in practice turned
into a two hectare maximum);
- · disputes over ownership of resettlement plots and
conflicts with host communities;
- · villages, hamlets and even families split up among
many different resettlement sites.
GoG has acquired under 14,000 hectares of land for the PAPs
who have been resettled in the state, spread over approximately
400 different resettlement sites. There are no plans available
describing where land will be found for the remaining 13,000 oustees
expected to move to the state. The acquisition of such large areas
of land combined with land speculation due to SSP has greatly
increased land prices in the command area, inflating the cost
to the government of acquiring land, and encouraging the government
to buy land of increasingly inferior quality. GoM has only after
great difficulty and controversy persuaded the MoEF to release
4,300 hectares of forest land for resettlement in Maharashtra.
This is only just over half the land needed for oustees in the
state. GoMP admits that it is unable to acquire any agricultural
land for resettlement.
Position of the Madhya Pradesh Government
An important recent development has been that the new government
in Madhya Pradesh, elected in November 1993, has admitted that
MP cannot resettle the huge numbers of people in the state to
be displaced by SSP as currently planned. A GoMP note circulated
at an all-party meeting called by the MP Chief Minister Digvijay
Singh in February 1994, recommended that the full reservoir level
should be reduced from 455 feet (139 m) to 436 feet (133 m) asl
which would spare from submergence over 8,100 hectares (20,000
acres) of land and 38,000 people in MP alone. The NWDT decided
on the 455 feet level rather than 436 feet solely on the basis
of the extra power it would provide. No water supply benefits
would be lost by reducing the height. GoMP engineers have now
calculated that as the Narmada flow is 17% less than the NWDT
assumed, the reservoir level could be reduced to 422 feet and
still supply the same amount of water to the Gujarat canals as
a reservoir at 455 feet. Digvijay Singh (an engineer by training)
wrote to Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in March 1994, saying that
there was consensus among MP's political parties that the dam
height should be reduced. GoMP has also said that it is willing
to forego its 57% share of the electricity produced by SSP.
Indian Review Committee
In August 1993 the central government set up a committee to 'look
into all aspects of SSP'. The committee heard submissions from
GoI, GoMP, GoM, the NBA, affected people and independent experts.
GoG boycotted the review although Gujaratis close to the state
government, including Mr C.C. Patel, an ex-Chairman of the Narmada
Nigam who has been one of the key promoters of the project, did
give evidence. The committee was originally due to submit its
report to GoI by December 1993 but the date has been continually
moved forward and it has still not been submitted. GoG has launched
a legal action against the review in the Gujarat High Court, on
the grounds that it is illegal under the terms of the NWDT Award.
The committee's report cannot be submitted until the case goes
to the High Court, which, under political pressure, has still
not set a date for the hearing.
- Compiled by Patrick McCully from a variety of Indian government,
World Bank, Narmada Bachao Andolan and independent sources. Metric
and imperial units are used according to their usage in official
sources. Elevations are presented as Above Sea Level when this
is how the statistics are normally presented by the dam authorities.
Contents copyright ©1995-8
International Rivers Network. Reproduction by permission only