Water grass in Sardar Sarovar rings alarm

The authorities have launched a clean-up operation with the help of locals

For the first time in its history, the Sardar Sarovar dam over Narmada river stands threatened by the growth of vegetation, which could affect power generation and quality of water provided to millions in the state. The authorities have launched an operation to clear the growth with the help of locals.

The floating vegetation, which Narmada forest department says is some type of ipomoea acquatica, a grass growing in water, has spread over one square kilometre area of the dam. The forest department claims the fast-growing, floating vegetation is obstructing the water flow and hence affecting electricity generation and also making water dirty. However, officials of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam (SSNL), the state government body set up exclusively for the project, maintains the power generation is normal.

"The vegetation was cited during monsoon. It must have come from some overflowing pond upstream. We had drawn attention of the SSNL officials and told them that it needed to be cleared. However, some time lapsed in getting a proposal for the cleaning operation approved. So, the work could be started three weeks ago," Harish Patel, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Narmada Division, told The Indian Express.

On Tuesday, the water-level in the biggest reservoir in the state was measured 114.5 metres. The nets to arrest debris in the flowing water powering turbines of power plants are fixed at 110 metres.

"The vegetation is getting stuck in the nets in the channels supplying water to turbines. If the water-level reduces further, we fear, if may cause problem," the RFO said, adding, the vegetation also threatened quality of water and level of oxygen in the dam. Narmada water is supplied to millions of people in Saurashtra, Kutch and many other regions of the state for drinking purpose.

However, a top SSNL official claimed the power generation was normal. "It is not affecting the power generation at all. We are operating seven to eight turbines of dam-based power plant and five turbines of canal-based power plant during peak ours. We are meeting the peak demand at night," he said.

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