Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Explained: Why Gujarat and MP are arguing over Narmada water and hydro power

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sardar Sarovar Project

Mains level : Inter-state water disputes


  • Over few weeks, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have engaged in war of words over the sharing of Narmada river waters.
  • MP has threatened to restrict the flow of water into the Sardar Sarovar Dam, located in Gujarat.
  • This was after Gujarat had requested the Narmada Control Authority for permission — which was granted — not to start generation at a power house until the dam fills to its full level.

Issue over water release

  • The Sardar Sarovar Project includes two power houses, the River Bed Power House (RBPH; 1,200 MW) and the Canal Head Power House (250 MW).
  • The RBPH has been shut since 2017, when the gates were closed and the reservoir height was raised to 138.63 m.
  • Gujarat has sought that generation should not start until the water reaches the full reservoir level (FRL).
  • The protocol is that once the dam crosses 131 m, dam authority is ought to release some water as it fills to its FRL.
  • For this power generation has to be resumed in the RBPH, where the turbines release the water downstream into the river.
  • If the inflow exceeds the capacity of the water released by the turbines after power generation, then too gates have to be opened.
  • The dam cannot just be filled to 138.63 metres without balancing the outflow.

What Gujarat wants

  • Gujarat has been facing a rain deficit in 2017 and 2018, when the reservoir reached levels of 130.75 m and 129 m.
  • Engineers in Gujarat say reaching the FRL is necessary for testing whether the concrete can withstand the thrust at that level.
  • The construction has lasted close to five decades with gaps of several years.
  • Filling the reservoir is possible only when the RBPH is closed because the water used for generating hydro power cannot be reused — it is drained into the sea.
  • Once a weir is ready, the water can be stored and pumped back using reversible turbines during non-peak hours of the grid.

Back2Basics

Sardar Sarovar Project

  • The Sardar Sarovar Dam is a gravity dam on the Narmada river near Navagam, Gujarat.
  • It includes two power houses, the River Bed Power House (RBPH; 1,200 MW) and the Canal Head Power House (250 MW).
  • Power is shared among Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in a 57:27:16 ratio.
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