The 182m Statue - Narendra Modi’s New Project  & It’s Implications
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There is no denying the fact that Mr. Narendra Modi, current Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat is a strong contender for the PM’s position in the General Elections next year. Despite many controversies, one thing that he has been able to prove clearly is his penchant for development and economic growth.

His most recent initiative has been the start of the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue on Sadhu Island, some 3.2 km from Sardar Sarovar Dam in Kevadia Colony of Narmada district. Named as the ‘Statue of Unity’, it is planned to be 182 metres high, slated to be the tallest statue in the world upon completion. As part of the project, a bridge connecting the statue on Sadhu Island to the bank, a memorial, visitor centre buildings, a memorial garden, a hotel, a convention centre, an amusement park, research centres and institutes will also be constructed. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET), a special purpose vehicle was established by the Gujarat government for construction of the statue.

Political motivations aside, this project is one of its kinds in India. With work to be started next month, it’s estimated to take 56 months to be completed and cost about 2500 crore INR to the exchequer as an entire project. This statue, which will be almost double the height of ‘Statue of Liberty’ is being made in consultation with Turner Construction, which was also the consultants for Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The project also has it’s very own website dedicated to putting up regular updates .

Engineering and construction companies all over Asia are vying for the contract to develop this project including the Chinese company that built the ‘Spring Temple Buddha’, the current tallest statue in the world.

The challenges that these companies can expect to face are bronze cladding, world's fastest elevators to keep the visitor's tour engaging, three-level public base, exhibition floor, mezzanine and roof containing a Memorial Garden, a large continuous exhibit hall that will be developed as a visitor attraction focusing on the contributions of Sardar Patel, an observation deck at 500ft that will give visitors a panoramic view of the beautiful Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, the 256-km-long Sardar Sarovar Reservoir and the 12-km-long Garudeshwar Reservoir.

The statue itself will consume a massive tonnage of iron which interestingly will be donated by the farmers in the country. Mr. Modi and his team are holding a drive to collect approximately 700 tonnes of iron from about five lakh villages. A ‘Unity Run’ of 2 kms was organised in Vadodra as a mobilization drive for the project. A total of 565 such events are planned across the country that will see participation from over 10 lakh people.

The collection of scrap iron items has started. Each farmer can donate just one piece of metal not weighing over one kilogram to make a contribution. The collected iron will all be melted and used in the construction. The remaining iron will come from the Steel Authority of India.

The Issues Surrounding The Project

There are many voices that are raising a lot of noise about various aspects of the project. There is an entire political wing that is not happy with the fact that a BJP leader is cashing in on the popularity of the former congressman.

There was also about 927 acres of land that was acquired from the surrounding villages back in 1961-62 for the Sardar Sarover dam project. The villagers demanded the land back, opposing the project on many grounds, saying they would lose their land in submergence. The government ceded to their demands and made due compensations.

Political agendas aside, there is much being said about the environmental impact that a project of such a magnitude will have as well as the mammoth funds that will go into building it.

As reports, there quite a few key environmental issues that need to be looked at:

The Project needs environment clearance under the Environment Protection Act, 1986; environmental impact assessment (EIA) notification of September 2006 and a few orders given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and other courts, but has not applied for or obtained any clearance

• The statute is only 3.2 km from the Sardar Sarovar Dam and is near Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary
• Project involves construction in the river bed and the proposed reservoir, close to sanctuary in eco-sensitive zone, and hence will have serious impact on both ecology and environment
• The project will affect the downstream river, its biodiversity, people and livelihoods
• No public consultation has been sought for the project
• Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability and safety

On top of that the livelihood of the neighboring farmer families may be affected with the concrete development. A concerned group of activists have written to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), saying the project should be stopped.

Many also contest the justification of the huge extent of funds that will go into a project like this, already estimated at 2500 crores and given how majority of project are mismanaged by the governments, is expected to go up.

Taxpayers are not happy that their money be spent in huge display of frivolity. However, this is a very myopic view of things. Such iconic developments are a major source of tourism opportunities and will create lot of jobs and economic growth in the future. Not only that, it will put India on the map as a builder of an engineering marvel that will surely attract a lot of investment in the region. If projects like these were scrapped in the past, we wouldn’t have the Taj Mahal and Qutab Minar to enjoy today.

That being said, a complete assessment of its impact on the environment is in order. We hope the authorities are listening.

Disha Bathija is a fashion marketing professional and writes on design and lifestyle.