The Bargi DAM

The Narmada is the largest river in Madhya Pradesh, India, flowing towards the west and falling in the Arabian sea. Its total length is 1312 Kms. of which it covers 1072 Kms. in M.P. The Bargi dam is one of the first supposedly completed dams among the chain of 30 major dams to be constructed on river Narmada. The proposal of this dam construction was conceptualised by the Central Water and Power Commission in 1968 envisaging irrigation in 2.98 lakh ha. and hydro-power generation capacity of 105 MW. (Source: DPR, Govt of M.P. 1968). Later the Bargi diversion scheme was planned, increasing the total irrigation potential to 4.37 lakh ha. The total cost estimates initially conceived were Rs. 64 crores which since then escalated to 566.31 crores in 1989, excluding the cost of canal construction which is estimated to be about 1660.80 Cr. ( Left bank canal Rs. 565.6 Cr. and Right bank canal Rs. 995.2 Cr). (Ref. Samagra Narmada Ghati Vikas, prepared by NVDA, 1997).

The dam construction work started in 1974 and was completed in 1990 when the gates were closed and the dam was filled to its complete capacity. The height of the dam is 69 mts. and length 5.4 kms. A lake of about 75 kms in length and 4.5 kms width, spreading over 26797 ha. in Jabalpur, Mandla and Seoni districts is formed when the water is impounded upto the dam FRL of 422.76m. 162 villages in districts Mandla, Seoni and Jabalpur were affected, submerging about 82 villages completely. Of the 26797 ha of land submerged, 14750 ha. was ownership land, 8478 ha. forest land and 3569 ha. other government land. Among the 7000 families displaced, 43% were tribals, 12% harijans, 38% OBCs and 7% others. (Source: Plan For Roof, Report by Mr. K.C. Dubey, Commissioner, Jabalpur Division , Jabalpur, 28th February 1987).

The Narmada valley is known for its fertile land, nature’s bounty, abundant crops, rich socio-cultural life. The submergence area of the Bargi dam once had prosperous farmers, tilling the fertile lands of the Narmada Kacchar, producing abundant food-grains of all varieties without any sort of irrigation or chemical fertilisers. Vegetables and seasonal fruits were also available in plenty. Livestock was healthy and sufficient. There was no dearth of milk and milk products. The region was prosperous and people enjoyed good mutual co-operation in times of marriages and deaths, festivals and all other occasions. Labourers working in the fields of prosperous farmers also lived a life of peace and happiness. Farmers used to make their own agricultural implements and built houses taking their necessities from the nistar forests around their villages.