Modi plans a big Patel statue. But the past belies such tall claims

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TWO DAYS before the civic election in Gujarat, CM Narendra Modi announced at a press conference his plan to build the world’s tallest statue. Called the ‘Statue of Unity’, and “twice the height of the Statue of Liberty”, this statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will be built in the middle of the Narmada river at Sadhupet. Modi’s claim that it will be completed in three years has ecologists worried. Their concerns, however, may be premature, for if the past is any indication, the Rs. 1,000-crore project may join a list of grand schemes that were announced and never got to see the light of day.

Tallest building Announced in 2005, this 51-storey building, the tallest in the country, was to be built on the outskirts of Gandhinagar. The Rs. 100 crore structure, meant to showcase an urban Gujarat, never took off.

Financial hub In 2007, the Gujarat International Finance Tec City, or GIFT was announced. To be built on the banks of the Sabarmati, 12 km from Ahmedabad airport, the city was touted as a financial hub. It was supposed to house the country’s tallest building, this time with 87 floors. Three years and Rs. 200 crore later, land levelling is still going on at the site.

Rejuvenating Saraswati In 2004, Modi claimed he would resurrect the mythical Saraswati river in Sidhpur in north Gujarat by pumping the waters of the Narmada into what is a disputed former site of the Saraswati. While Modi scored points with religious representatives, the exercise had to be abandoned after the administration ran up bills of over Rs.1 crore in pumping water to the elevated site.

Piped dream After coming to power in 2003, Modi announced the Sujalam Sufalam irrigation project to make north Gujarat, “droughtproof”. Water from the Narmada canal was to be transported through 15 pipelines about 100 km long at a cost of Rs. 4,500 crore. Three years later, the project cost had shot up to over Rs. 6,000 crore but no water had reached the dry districts. After being ticked off by the Comptroller and Auditor General, a state Public Accounts Committee found irregularities of over Rs. 660 crore. The scheme found no mention in Modi’s 2007 election campaign.

Sweet water Named Kalpsar or the ‘lake that fulfills wishes’, this Rs. 55,000-crore project initially proposed a 64 km-long dam on the sea across the Gulf of Khambhat joining the east coast of Gujarat to Bharuch district on the mainland. Water from 12 rivers was to be used to convert saline water into the world’s largest sweet water lake. PP Patel, former head of Geology Department at MS University, Baroda, had warned in 2003 that the project is on the intersection of the Cambay fault line and may create “tectonic stress areas”, concerns dismissed by the government. The project has been scaled down, the dam’s length reduced to 34 km from its original length and the size of the reservoir from 2,200 sq km to 200 sq km. Initially slated for 2009, the deadline has been pushed to 2011 to coincide with the Vibrant Gujarat summit.

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