A Dam with 2 Backwater levels!
Narendra Ch | 09 Sep 2015

How can the same dam have two backwater levels for the same magnitude of peak flows? One Backwater level below which families will be notified that they will be affected by submergence and will be eligible for rehabilitation? And a much higher backwater level which the Sardar Sarovar Nigam notifies various districts every year before the monsoons, in its "disaster management plan" document to say that the submergence waters could come to the very same villages, due to the very same dam to much higher levels -- that could be as much as 4-10 metres higher – that would impact tens of thousands more.

And yet this is what the centre and the states are doing to deceive people and deny them rehabilitation rights, while installing the gates on SSP dam in violation of the Narmada Tribunal award and Supreme Court judgements.


As an example, the 2015 Disaster Management Plan document of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd states clearly that in Gazipura/Khalghat village, Madhya Pradesh the backwater levels would come to a height of 149.85 m, due to the current 122 metre dam height and a peak flood of 24.5 lakh cusecs. This is an up to date figure based for construction up to June 2015.
Note that according to this document the Backwater curve would begin at the dam site at a level of 134.32mts (which is called the afflux level) and grow in height as the water backs up to Gazipura/Khalghat in Madhya Pradesh and beyond. If the dam is fully constructed and gates are installed, then the curve would begin at the dam site at the Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of 138.68 m, which is a 4.36 m higher afflux level.  In other words at Gazipura/Khalghat the backwater levels would reach 149.85 + 4.36 = 154 to 155 mts with the gates installed and dam at FRL.


However in the 2007-10 period and later, thousands of families who were previously considered
projected affected, received notices that they will not be eligible for rehabilitation as the Backwater levels were changed.

For Gazipura/Khalghat village, with the dam at the full height of FRL 138.68 meters, for the same 24.5 lakh cusecs peak flood, the Backwater levels were calculated (or should we say manipulated?) to be only 144.92 metres.  Thus according to the manipulated calculation, the submergence would only come to 144.92 metres and those above this height will not be eligible for rehabilitation.  Compare this level with BWL#1 in the previous paragraph, which for Gazipura/Khalghat is 154 to 155 m (a good 10 metres higher) for the dam at FRL.

Not only that, even for the dam at 122 m, Gazipura/Khalghat's BWL#1 of 149.85 metres is already much higher than 144.92 mts that is being used to deny rehabilitation to families whose homes are surely going to be submerged.

To imagine the scale of the problem the villages and town to be affected by Narmada are facing, consider a coastal city like Mumbai or Chennai. Now imagine that the sea level rises by 5 to 10 metres. What would be the impact to all the homes in the city next to the sea due to such a Tsunami? How far will the water go in and how much damage will it do? This is the scale of the injustice that the villagers from the Narmada valley are facing.

Why is the government doing this?

The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, which the Supreme Court upheld, clearly states that complete rehabilitation of all households and farms must be done 6 months prior to dam construction to a given height. Thus to install the gates, the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of affected families must be carried out for the dam at FRL 138.68 mts. Instead of rehabilitating families, the governments at the centre and states have chosen to violate the Tribunal Award and Supreme Court orders by creating a second lower Backwater level.  Families who previously were eligible for rehabilitation were deemed to be out of submergence zone. However the true disaster is reflected in the annual Disaster Management document as it can occur any year. And therefore this document has the true Backwater levels, which are already several meters higher!