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Will the Sardar statue withstand Narmada water current of 20 feet per second? Top state insider doubts

By Rajiv Shah
Apprehensions about viability of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s pet Rs 2,500 crore project, to built as the world’s tallest statue in the memory of Sardar Patel, are now coming from unexpected quarters, albeit “off the record.” One of the topmost government officials, known to be close to Modi, told Counterview on condition of anonymity that several “issues” about practicality of the project – which is part of the overall Modi drive to turn the area surrounding the Narmada dam into a major tourist attraction – have “yet to be resolved”.
The bureaucrat, who has been associated with several projects of the state’s Narmada and water resources department and can claim to be privy to inside information about the project despite not being directly part of the Sardar statue on a day-to-day basis, said, “Without solving some of the major contentious issues, and making them public, it would be advisable not to continue with the project. It would be even more advisable to make public all the technical details of the project.”
One of the major issues related with the Sardar statue, which is slated to be 182 metres high, twice that of the Statue of Liberty in New York, is to come up with an “authentic mathematical model” which would ensure that it would be able to withstand the “the worst flood scenario.” The official said, “The Sardar Sarovar Dam, which is in 3.2 km upstream, has been designed to release flood waters up to 30 lakh cusecs during an extreme flood. Once such huge floods happen, it is but natural that the water current in the river towards the sea would be extremely high.”
Pointing out that, according one expert estimate, the water current in the river might reach 20 feet per second, which is “unprecedented by any standard”, the official said, so far nothing is known about what would happen under such a scenario. “The normal river flow is about four feet per second”, the official pointed out, adding, “Generally, under flood conditions, the river flow rises to 12 feet per second. The maximum water flowing in the Narmada river was in 1960s during a major flood – around 24 lakh cusecs – or cubic feet per seconds.”
“While such flooding, of 30 lakh cusecs, would take place in rarest of rare cases, it is extremely important to take such a scenario into account. I hope, technical experts designing the statue are looking into this. Such strong current has the capacity to cutting into the river bed in a very unusual way. One cannot rule out that river may change its course. What would happen to the statue in that case?”, the official wondered.
The second factor which “has not been looked into”, according to this official, is what would happen in case the Sardar statue falls in the event of a major quake. “It would be a very huge statue, and if the statue falls vertically across the river, brink to brink, the damage would be devastating -- it would mean creating another dam. What would be the impact on the river in that case?”, the official wondered, adding, “While the Sardar Sarovar Dam has been designed to withstand an earthquake equal to the worst quake in Zone 7, whether the Sardar statue can withstand such a shakeup is the moot question.”
Asked why, in that case, the Gujarat government is going ahead with the statue and making such a big noise about it, the official said, “Experience suggests certain announcements are guided by political necessity, which we bureaucrats cannot understand. You never know what might happen to such announcements after a certain while. So, the best course would be to wait and see.”

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