The Stature of Unity - India
A tributary endeavour to the Iron Man of India, the Statue of Unity is an iconic 182-metre-tall statue situated on the isle of Sadhu-Bet. Located between the Mountain Ranges of Vindhyachal and Satpuda, this monument has many other attractive tourist spots in its proximity such as the Valley of Flowers, the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary and sacred temple, the Sardar Sarovar Dam and its water dykes, the scenic Zarvani Falls and majestic palaces of Rajpipla. The grand monument along with a picturesque backdrop makes it an ideal destination for eco-tourism.
The Government of Gujarat had assigned the task of constructing the Statue of Unity to the ‘Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust’ (SVPRET), chaired by the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Gujarat. SVPRET has executed the project and undertaken all activities related to the construction of Statue of Unity through the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL).
VPRET had appointed a consortium comprising Turner Project Management India Private Limited, Meinhardt India Private Limited and Michael Graves & Associates Inc., as PMC (Project Management Consultant). Many of the consortium members have been involved in developing some of the world’s tallest structures, including the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
SSNNL management team & its engineers have built one of the tallest concrete gravity dams in the world and an irrigation system, which is one of the top irrigation networks of the world.
India’s largest engineering and construction company Larsen & Toubro was assigned the responsibility for designing, engineering, procurement, construction, operation and maintenance of the project.
Noted sculptor Ram V. Sutar, a Padma Bhushan Awardee, who has created over 40 monumental sculptures over the past 40 years was designated as the sculptor for the Statue of Unity.
A countrywide program which covered several villages for ‘Loha Campaign’ were conducted during the year 2013-14. A total of 169,078 used farm tools and soil samples were collected from farmers across the country as their voluntary contribution to the iconic project. In this `Loha Campaign’ which is believed to be one of the largest social mobilization drives in the world, 134.25 metric tonnes of iron was received from villages across the nation. This iron was converted into reinforcement bars weighing 109.17 metric tonnes and used in the construction of the project. Soil collected from various parts of the country was used to make the symbolic ‘Wall of Unity’.
The Statue of Unity stands as a naturalistic and inspirational portrayal of Sardar Patel, donning his characteristic garments and a pose that reflects dignity, confidence, iron will and kindness. Bronze cladding adds richness and visual appeal to the Statue. Sophisticated, state-of-the-art surveying technologies like, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) and Telescopic Logging were used for the construction of the Statue.
The construction of this National Monument utilised approximately 70,000 metric tonnes of cement, 18,500 metric tonnes of reinforcement bars and 6,000 metric tonnes of structural steel. The surface area of about 22,500 square metres has been clad with around 1,700 metric tonnes of bronze.
The Process Of Construction
A consortium comprising Turner Construction, Michael Graves and Associates and the Meinhardt Group supervised the project. It took 57 months to complete – 15 months for planning, 40 months for construction and two months for handing over by the consortium. The total cost of the project was estimated to be about Rs 2,063 crore (equivalent to Rs 25 billion or US$360 million in 2018) by the government. The tender bids for the first phase were invited in October 2013 and were closed in November 2013.
Indian infrastructure company Larsen & Toubro won the contract on 27 October 2014 for its lowest bid of Rs 2,989 crore (equivalent to Rs 36 billion or US$520 million in 2018) for the design, construction and maintenance. They commenced the construction on 31 October 2014. In the first phase of the project, Rs 1,347 crore were for the main statue, Rs 235 crore for the exhibition hall and convention centre, Rs 83 crore for the bridge connecting the memorial to the mainland and Rs 657 crore for the maintenance of the structure for 15 years after its completion. The Sadhu Bet hillock was flattened from 70 to 55 metres to lay the foundation.
L&T employed over 3000 workers and 250 engineers in the statue’s construction. The core of the statue utilised 210,000 cubic metres (7,400,000 cu ft) of cement concrete, 6,500 tonnes of structural steel, and 18,500 tonnes of reinforced steel. The outer façade is made up of 1,700 tonnes of bronze plates and 1,850 tonnes of bronze cladding which in turn comprise 565 macro and 6,000 micro panels. The bronze panels were cast in Jiangxi Tongqing Metal Handicrafts Co. Ltd (the TQ Art foundry) in China as suitable facilities were unavailable in India. The bronze panels were transported over sea and then by road to the workshop near the construction site where they were assembled.
Local tribes belonging to the Tadvi tribe opposed land acquisition for the development of tourism infrastructure around the statue. They have been offered cash and land compensation and have been provided jobs. People of Kevadia, Kothi, Waghodia, Limbdi, Navagam, and Gora villages opposed the construction of the statue and demanded the restitution of the land rights over 375 hectares (927 acres) of land acquired earlier for the dam as well as the formation of new Garudeshwar subdistrict. They also opposed the formation of Kevadia Area Development Authority (KADA) and the construction of Garudeshwar weir-cum-causeway project. The government of Gujarat accepted their demands.
Construction of the monument was completed in mid-October 2018; and the inaugural ceremony was held on 31 October 2018, presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The statue has been described as a tribute to Indian engineering skills.
The monument is constructed on a river island named Sadhu Bet, 3.2 km (2.0 mi) away from and facing the Narmada Dam downstream. The statue and its surroundings occupy more than 2 hectares (4.9 acres) and are surrounded by a 12 km (7.5 mi) long artificial lake formed by the Garudeshwar weir downstream on the Narmada river.
The statue is divided into five zones of which only three are accessible to the public. From its base to the level of Patel’s shins is the first zone which has three levels and includes an exhibition area, mezzanine and roof. Zone 1 contains a memorial garden and a museum. The second zone reaches up to Patel’s thighs, while the third extends up to the viewing gallery at 153 metres. Zone 4 is the maintenance area while the final zone comprises the head and shoulders of the statue.
An outreach drive named the Statue of Unity Movement was started to support the construction of the statue. It helped collect the iron needed for the statue by asking farmers to donate their used farming instruments. By 2016, total 135 metric tonnes of scrap iron had been collected and about 109 tonnes of it was used to make the foundation of the statue after processing. A marathon entitled Run For Unity was held on 15 December 2013 in Surat and in Vadodara in support of the project.
Natural factors like wind and earthquakes posed stiff challenges. Situated right in the middle of the river Narmada, the statue is exposed to the tunnel effect of winds blowing down the river. Studies of wind patterns over the years revealed wind speeds of 39 m per second (roughly translated into 130 km/hr) could buffet the statue in a worst-case scenario.
The statue has been engineered to withstand wind speeds of up to 50 m per second (almost 180 km/hr). The challenge is not only of the wind blowing against the statue but the succession effect it creates at the back of the statue that had to considered in the structural design.
To arrest any sway of such a tall structure, two Tuned Mass Dampers of 250 tonnes each have been used. In any given situation, all the four corners of the base raft remain rooted to the ground.
The SoU can also survive earthquakes measuring up to 6.5 on the Richter Scale, at a depth of 10 km and within a radius of 12 km of the statue.
Walking Pose Of The Sardar
The Sardar’s legs are clad in a dhoti, his feet in chappals and in a walking pose that means that the statue is most slender at the base. This goes against the norms of what other tall statues have followed. The walking-pose also opened up a gap of 6.4 metres between the two feet, which then had to be tested to withstand wind velocity.
Another challenge came in the form of the look of the statue. Since Patel’s face was an important aspect, special care was taken in casting the facial features that had to be as close as possible to the Sardar’s face. As per the sculptor Ram Sutar’s original design, the statue was to have a poised countenance, with Patel’s head held high and arms by his sides emitting a feeling of power as well as warmth. The statue is also supposed to appear as if it is walking on water, towards the Sardar Sarovar dam, with its left leg slightly forward.
The actual features of the Sardar were decided through a participative exercise involving thousands of people. A mock-up was created and exhibited for people to see and comment on it.
Movement Of Men And Material
The statue is located amidst remote, mountainous terrain, which posed enormous difficulties in delivery of materials. A temporary Bailey’s bridge connected the hill to the mainland.
The statue base also stands above the highest flood level recorded over a 100-year period of the nearby Narmada dam. A detailed hydrological study was conducted by a specialist consultant to ascertain the river level and flow during various conditions.
The viewing gallery will be accessible through two elevators located in the statue’s core, with a carrying capacity of 40 people each. The gallery, with space to accommodate up to 200 people at a time, will have a view of the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, which also form the point where Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra meet. Visitors can also get a distant view of the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, and the 12-km-long Garudeshwar Reservoir — the latter will help ensure there is always water around the statue, which is located downstream from the Narmada dam.
In the lobby area at the entrance of the statue, a Museum and Audio-Visual Gallery will feature 15-minute presentations on the life of Patel and the tribal culture of Gujarat, to entertain tourists awaiting their turn to go up.
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