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Ask Larsen & Toubro to stop work for building Statue of Unity in memory of Sardar Patel: Gujarat activists

By Our Representative
Several senior activists and intellectuals of Gujarat have taken strong exception to Gujarat government handing over the construction work of the 182-metres high Statue of Unity to India’s top project developers, Larsen & Toubro, allegedly without following necessary legal procedure. Wondering why was the Gujarat government in such a hurry, a letter to the Union environment secretary by two dozen prominent citizens said, no consultants were appointed to even prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for the project.
Asking the Union secretary to “influence” the Gujarat government to carry out environmental assessment as also get environmental clearance, the letter – signed by Trupti Shah, Girish Patel, Mahesh Pandya, Ghanshyam Shah, Persis Ginwalla, Rohit Prajapati, Himanshu Thakkar, Nandini Oza, Prasad Chacko, Shripad Dharmadhikary, and others – wanted immediate halt to all activities related, proposed in the memory of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the midst of Narmada river, about 3.2 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Threatening legal action in case this is not done, the letter said, the environmental issues need to be solved because the eco-sensitive Shoolpaneshwar sanctuary touches the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, and the statue would be just 3.2 km away. Then, it is not just a statue, there is tourism aspect also attached with it, which would affect biodiversity of the region, including livelihood of the people surrounding the area. There will be “buildings, hotels, museums, jetties, guest houses, roads and their cumulative impact.”
“It is an elaborate tourism project which includes the creation of a 13-km-long artificial pond which will be used for boating, a museum and audiovisual gallery, research centre, memorial garden, public plaza, roads, and railway lines”, the letter insisted.
Already, there is movement in that direction: “A board which has been recently erected in front of the helipad at Kevadia Colony mentioning the inauguration by the Chief Minister of Gujarat of Shreshtha Bharat Bhavan built at the cost of Rs 176 crore as part of the Statue of Unity near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River near Kevadia colony.”
Pointing out that no public consultation has taken place, the letter said, there is also the need to understand that the Sardar Sarovar dam has been constructed on hard rock, and there is evidence that the area is close to seismic activity. The dam’s burden, it pointed out, has “added to the load in what is deemed geologically fault line area.”
In fact, according to the letter, “Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability as well as safety. This cannot be taken casually by authorities. The seismic hazard analysis claimed to have been done by a government institute cannot be considered credible unless there is a peer review”.
Calling all this “illegal” and “in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986”, the letter demanded that the Larsen & Toubro should be asked to immediately halt its activities, and the Gujarat government should be asked to submit application for environmental clearance, “and till that is obtained, not to do any work related to the project.”

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