Union Minister of Water Resources Uma Bharati on Monday defended the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) decision to give nod to shut gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat and impound water in the reservoir to its fullest capacity of 138.68 metres.
Social activists and social organisations, particularly the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), are up in arms against the NCA's "illegal" approval for lowering the gates.
The NAPM are insisting that the state governments should first compensate affected families and rehabilitate them in line with a Supreme Court order, given in February this year.
"We have to follow the Supreme Court's order," Bharti said during a briefing on the three-year performance of her minister.
On the compensation issue, Bharati said all the steps have been taken to offer compensations to the affected ones in accordance with law and that states have agreed to it.
"But there are also people who have refused to take compensation. We have to follow the SC order," she added.
The NCA on June 16 cleared the final raising of the dam by lowering its gates and impounding water in the reservoir up to full level of 138.68 metres, aiming to meet water needs of drought-prone areas in the state and Rajasthan.
The NCA decision will result in the increase in the dam's live storage capacity from 1,565 million cubic metres (MCM) to 5,740 MCM or by 267 per cent. The decision would also help irrigate 8 lakh hectares of area, provide drinking water to one lakh people and increased hydroelectricity generation by 150 megawatts, the ministry had said.
Spelling out the achievements of her ministry, Bharti said, "Under 'har khet ko pani' and 'more crop per drop' scheme 22 projects of Maharashtra, six projects of Odisha, 17 projects (including phases) of Madhya Pradesh (45 in all) have been put on fast track and likely to be completed in advance of the scheduled time."
Giving details about development works in north-eastern states, Bharti said, "Focus has also been given towards development of north-eastern states. Apart from the restructuring of Brahmputra board, four projects with a balance of Rs 617 crore have been taken up under PMKSY to generate an irrigation potential of 1.62 lakh ha in the region."