The Narmada or Nerbudda is a river in central India. It forms the traditional boundary between North India and South India, and is a total of 1,289 km (801 mi) long. It is one of only three major rivers in pensinsular India that run from east to west, along with the Tapti and the Mahi. It rises on the summit of Amarkantak Hill in Madhya Pradesh state, and for the first 320 kilometres (200 miles) of its course winds among the Mandla Hills, which form the head of the Satpura Range; then at Jabalpur, passing through the 'Marble Rocks', it enters the Narmada Valley between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, and pursues a direct westerly course to the Gulf of Cambay. It flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujurat, and empties into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch District of Gujarat.

The Narmada Valley is a rift valley were a graben, a linear block of the earth's crust has dropped relative to the blocks or horsts on either side due to ancient spreading of the earth's crust. Two normal faults, known as the Narmada North fault and Narmada South fault, parallel the river's course, and mark the boundary between the Narmada block and the Vindhya and Satpura blocks or horsts which rose relative to the Narmada Graben. The Narmada's watershed includes the northern slopes of the Satpuras, and the steep southern slope of the Vindhyas, but not the Vindhyan tableland, the streams from which flow into the Ganges and Yamuna.

Its longest tributary is the Tawa, which joins the Narmada at Bandra Bhan in Hoshangabad District, Madhya Pradesh. After leaving Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the river widens out in the fertile district of Bharuch. Below Bharuch city it forms a 20 kilometre wide estuary where it enters the Gulf of Cambay. The Narmada river is not only used for irrigation, but for navigation. In the rainy season boats of considerable size sail about 100 kilometres above Bharuch city. Seagoing vessels of about 70 tons frequent the port of Bharuch, but they are entirely dependent on the tide.

Sardar Sarovar ProjectEdit

The Sardar Sarovar Project was first conceived in the 1940s by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, but the project did not begin to become a reality until 1979. The goal of the project is to create around 3200 small, medium and large dams along the length of the river, with the Sardar Sarovar dam being the largest.

Proponents of the dam project, currently lead by the BJP Chief Minister of Gujurat, Narendra Modi argue that the dam will provide hydroelectric power to the entire region, as well as helping to irrigate the arid regions of Gujurat, namely north Gujurat, Saurashtra, and Kutch (also sometimes spelled Kachchh). The combined benefits would reach some 50 million people.

Those who oppose the dam acknowledge these points, but counter that the damage caused by the dam will far outweigh any potential benefits. The group Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save the Narmada Movement) leads the opponents of the dam's construction, and maintains that besides causing serious damage to the region's natural ecology (a recognized consequence of large-scale dam construction), will cause the displacement of millions of poor peasants and tribal members, causing not only a loss of livelihood, but a loss of an historical way of life. Some scientists have also claimed that building the dam will make the region more prone to earthquakes, and there are concerns over whether or not the state could adequately maintain the dam. Furthermore, the river supplies water to residents in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, and Rajasthan, and there are fears that the dam will block the flow of water to these regions, causing widespread devastation in some of the most arid parts of India. Over the past decade, major international organizations such as the World Bank have withdrawn funding for the project, citing such concerns.

The dam has caused such controversy that in 1999, a case against its construction went to the Indian Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the state, criticizing the actions of Narmada Bachao Andolan. The court set the height of the dam at 90 metres until an environmental task-force had examined the issue. However, the Supreme Court also ordered rehabilitation for all those affected by the dam's construction, and in March 2005 ruled to halt construction on the dam until this had happened. Construction of the dam is now halted at 110.6 metres, a figure that is much higher than the 88 metres proposed by the activists, and lower than the 130 metres that the dam is eventually supposed to reach. It is unclear at this point what the final outcome of the project will be or when it will be completed, though the entire project is meant to be finished by 2025.

Major Towns and Cities along the riverEdit

Narmada in Indian historyEdit

Chalukya emperor Pulakeshin II defeated emperor Harshavardhana of Kannauj on the banks of Narmada.

The Narmada in HinduismEdit

The Narmada River is one of the most important sacred rivers, believed to have descended from the sky by the order of Lord Shiva. It is said that the mere sight of the river will make a pilgrim pure because of its sanctity. As a result, the river represents an important pilgrimage site, and one of the highest acts a pilgrim can perform is to walk from the sea to the source of the river, in the Maikal Mountains and back along the opposite bank, a process that can take one to two years to complete. The town of Maheswar is a particularly important pilgrimage site along the route of the river.

The Narmada is closely associated with Lord Shiva. Naturally formed smooth stones called banas, made of cryptocrytalline quartz, are found in Narmada which are known as Shivalingas; the rare and unique markings on them are regarded by shaivaites as very auspicious. The Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, constructed by Rajaraja Chola, has one of the biggest Bana Shivalingas. Adi Shankara met his guru Govinda Bhagavatpada on the banks of river Narmada.

References Edit

Further ReadingEdit

  • Jacques Leslie, Deep Water: The Epic Struggle over Dams, Displaced People, and the Enviornment, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2005), hardcover, 252 pages, ISBN 0374281726

External links Edit


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