AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today hailed the completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project on the Narmada River as a "big achievement," saying it will take Gujarat to new heights under the BJP dispensation in the next 10 years.
Addressing party workers at the city airport this morning upon his arrival, the prime minister, who is on a two-day visit of Gujarat, also appreciated the past state governments, including that of the Congress, for their efforts in completion of the project.
Fifty-six years after the foundation stone for the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River was laid, the Gujarat government on June 17 got permission from the Centre to shut the gates of the controversy-hit structure, marking the "completion" of the project.
"Narmada (dam) project is truly a big achievement. The next decade will be a journey to convert this achievement into prosperity. And I am confident that Gujarat will touch new heights under BJP's leadership during the next ten years with this project at the core," Modi said.
The foundation stone for the dam was laid in 1961 by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and with the permission to close its 30 gates by the Modi-led government, it took 56 years for the dam to be completed.
With the closing of the gates, the height of one of the biggest water reservoirs in the country will be 138 metres and the storage capacity of 4.75 million cubic metres (MCM).
The dam's construction work was suspended in 1996 after the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists obtained a stay order from the apex court, raising environmental and rehabilitation issues.
It was only after the Supreme Court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of the construction of the dam that the work on it had resumed.
However, the apex court had set a condition that permission to increase the dam's height would be given in parts after the project-affected-people are resettled or compensated.
"All the past state governments, be it of any party, tried their best to resolve the issue of this project. However, they eventually hit roadblocks. But now, we are witnessing the climax. This project will add a new dimension to Gujarat's journey of growth," Modi said.
Recalling his days as Gujarat chief minister prior to 2014, Modi said most states as well as the previous Central governments could not understand the gravity of the situation arising out of scarcity of water in Gujarat.
"Water has always remained a challenge in Gujarat's growth journey. When I was the chief minister and used to attend meetings with the central government over the issue, I used to tell them how we are experiencing difficulties in carrying out developmental works due to scarcity of water," said Modi.
"But, the Centre as well as some state governments could not understand how grave the situation was. That is why people of Gujarat fully understand the importance of water," he said.
Modi said he will come back soon to dedicate the project to the nation.
"After closing the gates of the dam, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani called me and invited me to dedicate the project to the nation. My office will get back to him in the coming days to allot a date, so that I can get a chance to come back and witness the commencement of Gujarat's journey of development," he said.
Earlier, Chief Minister Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, several ministers and state BJP leaders welcomed Modi on his arrival here.