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Rejected by MP, "main purpose" of Garudeshwar weir across Narmada is to supply water to industry

By Rajiv Shah
Amidst fresh controversy over the Gujarat government’s decision to go ahead with the construction of Garudeshwar weir across the Narmada river, allegedly without environmental clearance (click HERE to read), a top official in Gandhinagar Sachivalaya has confided to www.counterview.net that the “real purpose of the weir is to supply Narmada water to the industrial complexes in the nearby regions, especially in Bharuch district.” The official, who did not want to be named, said, “The state-owned Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) has been asked to work out final details of the industrial areas that would need the water.”
In fact, the official said, already the GIDC has begun the process of laying down a 128 km long pipeline to one of the biggest projects up to the area – the Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) in Dahej, with an investment of Rs 70,000 crore in alliance with the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC). “Initially, it has been agreed to supply 50 million litres per day of (MLD) water to the PCPIR, going to the biggest industrial area of the western region. The PCPIR’s actual needs go up to 300 MLD, and the weir alone can fulfill it”, the official said.
The weir, about 12 kilometres downstream of the Narmada dam, is going to be 1,100 metres long and 31.75 metres high, and it would store one million acre feet (MAF) of water, one-fourth of the current capacity of the Narmada dam’s reservoir. To cost the state coffers around Rs 426 crore (at 2010-11 prices), its original purpose, as envisaged in the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), was to store water and reuse it to produce power. The water stored in the 12-km-stretch was planned to be pumped back into the dam, and then again sent through reversible turbines to generate power.
However, the official underlined, “With the Madhya Pradesh having officially conveyed to the Gujarat government that it is not interested in the power produced through the weir, a decision needed to be taken whether to go ahead with the weir at all, as it would not fulfill the NWDT award provisions. Hence, it was decided at a high-level meeting that the state government would go ahead with the weir for two reasons – one, the 12-km-stretch would be turned into a huge reservoir to attract tourists, the two, the water stored in it would be supplied to industry.”
The official said, “The reason for the decision to give water stored up to Garudeshwar weir to industry is economic. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), the Narmada project’s implementing agency, which has already spent more than Rs 40,000 crore on the Narmada project, and will have to shell out another Rs 30,000 crore to complete the project, badly needs funds, particularly at a time when thousands of crores are pending to be paid by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. With about one MAF of water available, Gujarat can easily sell weir water at the rate of Rs 25 per 1,000 litres to industry, which is the current SSNNL rate for industry.”
Sources said, with the Madhya Pradesh government “not interested” in the weir, if one went strictly by the NWDT award, the weir should have been “dropped”, as the neighbouring state’s share in the project cost was to the tune of 57 per cent, equal to the share in power under the NWDT Award, followed by Maharashtra’s 27 per cent and Gujarat’s 16 per cent. “Madhya Pradesh undertook a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which suggested that it was unviable to fund the weir and by spending Rs 242 crore. In fact, the power produced from the weir would be costlier than what is available from the Central grid. Based on the study, it decided to withdraw”, the official said.
Apart from providing water to industry, the Gujarat government’s another main reason for going ahead with the weir is to develop the whole area as a top tourism spot, with different types of water sports activities being undertaken up to the weir. Besides, it is amidst waters up to this weir that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi wants to implement his dream project, the Statue of Unity, as the world’s tallest statue – three times higher than the Statue of Liberty in New York. A political requirement of Modi, the statue is proposed in the memory of Sardar Patel, India’s Iron Man.

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