Development and environment can thrive together: PM Modi on his 69th birthday

Aishwarya Mohanty
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Namami Devi Narmada Mahotsav in Kevadia Colony (Express Photo by Bhupendra Rana)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Statue of Unity a living example of how development and environment can thrive together. While addressing a rally in Kevadia colony to mark the Namami Devi Narmada Mahotsav, that coincided with his 69th birthday, he said, "In our culture it is always believed that along with protecting the environment, development is possible as well. Since today morning I have visited a lot of places and every place I have seen the amazing coordination between environment and development. On one side is the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the Hydropower turbines and on the other side there is cactus garden, butterfly garden, eco tourism and others."

He stated that the Sardar Sarovar Dam reaching its Full Reservoir Limit (FRL) is an achievement in itself when earlier there was a time when the level could only reach 122 metres. "This is a laudable achievement. And this will be the inspiration which will help accomplish the Jal Jeevan mission and promote a movement towards the success of water conservation in the country. The various people’s movement from the state for water conservation is commendable and should be promoted at a national level as well," he said.

For the first time, the Sardar Sarovar Dam reached its maximum capacity level of 138.68 metres. To celebrate this occasion, Namami Devi Narmada Mahotsav was organised by the state government across the state on Tuesday.

In 2017, on September 17, Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam project. Since then, gates were opened for the first time this year as water levels in Narmada river rose due to heavy rainfall in the catchment area in Madhya Pradesh.

After he reached Kevadia in the morning, he first visited and inspected various constituent tourist attraction spots developed around the Statue of Unity including the cactus garden, the butterfly garden, safari park, and river rafting and then performed the Narmada arti before addressing the rally.

In his address he recollected the time when acute water scarcity was a major issue in the state and stated how women walked for 5-10 kilometer daily to fetch water, families from Kutch and Saurashtra migrated to other cities and in the year 2000 for the first time a special water train was started to provide water to Jamnagar, Surendranagar, and Bhavnagar. Maintaining that the state has come a long way since then, Modi said, "When you trusted me to power, we had two major responsibilities. One to expedite the work of the Dam for irrigation and drinking water and second to expand the Narmada network canal. Till 2001 the main canal was stretched across only 150 kilometer. Irrigation and Drinking facilities were incomplete. But today, in the last 17-18 years almost twice land has been brought under irrigation."
He continued, "Area under drip irrigation and micro-irrigation was only 14000 hectares and only 8000 agricultural families could benefit from it. Today the area covered is 19 lakh hectares and around 12 lakh families are benefitted."

He further went on to cite an IIM study that concluded that micro and drip irrigation had led to 50% water conservation, 25% reduction in use of fertilizer, 40% reduction in labour cost and 30% increase in crop produce which eventually led to an increase of Rs 15,500 in the per hectare income of each family, in Gujarat.

Emphasizing on the government’s goal to provide tap water to every household, Modi said, "Not only irrigation, but tap water provision to every household has also substantially increased. In 2001, only 26 per cent households had tap water availability in Gujarat. Today 78 per cent households have tap water facility. Taking inspiration from here, we have to achieve similar accessibility of tap water across the country ."

He also mentioned that similar to the Ghogha Dahej Ro Ro ferry services, a Mumbai Hazira Ro Ro ferry service is also under pipeline to boost water tourism in the state.

Talking about Statue of Unity and the footfall of more than 23 lakhs tourists so far in the last 11 months, Modi said, "At an average, SoU sees a footfall of 8.5k tourists. If we compare it with the Statue of Liberty, it sees a footfall of 10k tourists every day and it is 133 years old. But 8.5k tourists on an average daily at SoU in just 11 months talks volumes about its popularity. With all the new tourist attractions coming up in the area, not only tourist attractions will increase but also employment opportunities for the local residents here.

He also mentioned that on this day in 1948, Hyderabad had agreed to be a part of India, and how "India has again accomplished the dream of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel."

"Today India is trying to complete all the tasks that have remained incomplete since independence. For 70 years the people of Jammu and Kashmir were discriminated and the entire country suffered in the form of violence and incomplete aspirations. But today a decision was taken after decades to walk on a new path to solve this issue. I have complete trust that with all the support of our citizens from Jammu and Kashmir we will chart a new destination towards development together. "