Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat hopes that the world’s tallest statue, that of Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, known as the “Iron Man of India”, which the Prime Minister will inaugurate on October 31. will promote tourism through its unique features. These include a viewing gallery at a height of 153 metres that offers an expansive view of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges and other sites.
The 182-metre-high ‘Statue of Unity’ is a tribute to the country’s first Home Minister who played a major role in integrating the princely states into the Indian Union after the partition of 1947. It is almost 29 metres taller than China’s Spring Temple Buddha, the world’s current tallest statue at 153 metres, and almost twice as high as the 93- metre Statue of Liberty in New York.
“Currently work is on to give the final touches to to the viewing gallery located at the chest of the statue at a height of 153 metres. The gallery can accommodate up to 200 visitors at a time. It will offer an expansive view of the dam, the Satpura and Vindhya mountain ranges and other sites,” S.S. Rathod, Chairman and Managing Director of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), which is overseeing the project, told a group of visiting journalists in this town, 215 km from state capital Gandhinagar.
The statue, being built at a cost of Rs. 2,389 crore, is located at Sadhu Bet Island on Narmada river, 3.2 km downstream of Sardar Sarovar Dam. The 1,210 metre long concrete gravity dam is one of India’s largest water resource projects and a major tourist attraction.
The Statue of Unity will boost tourism, with one estimate putting the daily numbers at 15,000, and it can become one of the most visited spots in the the nation, a state government official said.
Rathod said that 250 engineers and 3,400 labourers are diligently working round-the-clock on the interior and exterior of the project, which includes a garden at the base of the statue and two high-speed lifts which will carry 40 people at a time to take them to the viewing gallery. There will also be a museum and a sound and light show depicting the life and times of Sardar Patel.
Marble flooring is being completed on the 306-metre walkway leading up to the statue. There will also be a moving walkway for the disabled and senior citizens. A shopping is being created while a selfie point has been designated a few meters from the statue. Rathod assured that remaining work will be completed before its inauguration.
The core of the statue is made up of reinforced concrete and its surface has 553 bronze cladding panels, with each panel comprising 10 to 15 micro panels. After doing a shadow analysis, it was decided that statue will face southeast as this will ensure it remains in the sunshine for the maximum amount of time, Rathod said.
Its unique location will help in boosting eco-tourism and it is expected to attract 15,000 tourists everyday, SSNNL Superintending Engineer R. G. Kanungo said.
A 52-room three-star hotel and two “tent cities” with 250 tents are currently under construction to accommodate the visitors to the site. And, flowers are being planted on the hills adjoining the statue to give the area a “Valley of the Flowers’ look.
The statue will be able to withstand severe wind velocity and severe earthquakes. Built by Larsen & Toubro, work on the statue started in December 2014 and was to be completed in 42 months. This was extended by another four months because the critical design phase took longer than expected, Kanungo said.