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Why India’s Plan For The World’s Tallest Statue Has Divided Mumbai


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Tedda Tew



India’s plan to erect the world’s tallest statue has stirred up a heated debate among the residents of Mumbai. The statue, known as the Statue of Unity, is dedicated to the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister, Vallabhbhai Patel. While the ambitious project intends to pay tribute to a prominent figure in India’s independence movement, it has also sparked intense controversy and division within the city.


Standing at a towering height of 182 meters, the Statue of Unity surpasses even the globally renowned Statue of Liberty in New York. It is located on a small island in the Arabian Sea, near the coast of Mumbai. This monumental structure is expected to become a major tourist attraction, boosting the tourism industry and economy of the region.


However, the statue’s construction has faced fierce opposition from various groups, raising concerns about its impact on the environment and cultural heritage of Mumbai. The controversy stems from the decision to build the statue in a city already grappling with pressing issues such as overcrowding, pollution, and social inequalities.


While some argue that the statue will bring economic benefits and showcase India’s accomplishments, others claim that the project is a misguided allocation of resources that could be better used to address more pressing social and infrastructure needs. The debate has divided the residents of Mumbai, with passionate supporters and fervent critics voicing their opinions on various platforms.


This article aims to delve into the multiple dimensions of the controversy surrounding India’s plan for the world’s tallest statue in Mumbai. It will explore the historical background of the statue, the location controversy, the economic implications for Mumbai, the environmental concerns, the social and cultural implications, public opinion, government justification, and opposition to the project. By examining these facets, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and significance of this divisive issue.


Historical Background of the Statue

The idea of erecting a statue in honor of Vallabhbhai Patel, also known as the Iron Man of India, dates back to the early 1990s. Vallabhbhai Patel played a pivotal role in India’s independence movement and was instrumental in the integration of over 500 princely states into the Indian Union after independence in 1947.


The concept of the Statue of Unity gained traction in 2010 when the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, announced the ambitious project. Gujarat, Patel’s home state, took the lead in making this vision a reality. The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) was established to oversee the planning, design, and execution of the statue.


The statue’s design was entrusted to renowned Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar, who meticulously crafted the concept with the aim of capturing the essence of Patel’s leadership and significance in Indian history. The design showcases Patel standing tall, depicting his powerful persona and symbolizing the unity and strength of the Indian nation.


The Statue of Unity project gained momentum after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India in 2014. Under his leadership, the government provided significant support for the construction of the statue to honor Patel’s contributions to the country. The project was slated to be completed within a record timeframe of four years.


Construction of the statue began in October 2013, and it was unveiled by Prime Minister Modi on October 31, 2018, to coincide with Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary. The Statue of Unity quickly earned global recognition for its grandeur and scale, solidifying its position as a remarkable feat of engineering and a testament to India’s cultural heritage.


The historical background of the statue underscores its intention to pay homage to Vallabhbhai Patel’s indelible mark on India’s history. By erecting this colossal structure, India seeks to honor Patel’s legacy and inspire future generations to emulate his leadership and dedication to the nation.


The Controversy Surrounding the Location

The choice of the location for the Statue of Unity has been a contentious issue and has contributed significantly to the controversy surrounding the project. The statue is situated on a small island called Sadhu Bet, near the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River in the state of Gujarat. This decision has sparked criticism and debate, particularly from the residents of Mumbai.


One of the primary arguments against the chosen location is that it takes away attention and resources from the development of Mumbai, a city grappling with numerous pressing issues. Critics argue that instead of investing in a grandiose statue, the focus should be on improving the city’s crumbling infrastructure, education system, healthcare facilities, and addressing socio-economic disparities.


Furthermore, the island itself was a subject of controversy. Sadhu Bet is home to the tribal community of Adivasis, who were displaced to make way for the construction of the statue. Critics argue that the displacement of indigenous communities in the name of development raises ethical concerns and violates their rights.


Additionally, the location choice has also raised concerns about the environmental impact. The island is part of the fragile ecosystem surrounding the Narmada River and the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Environmentalists express worry about the construction’s effect on the flora, fauna, and overall ecological balance of the area. The increase in tourist footfall to the island is also expected to disrupt the delicate environment.


On the other hand, supporters of the location argue that Sadhu Bet provides a serene and picturesque setting for the statue, allowing visitors to appreciate its grandeur in a tranquil environment. They claim that the island’s proximity to the Sardar Sarovar Dam and the river enhances the overall experience, showcasing the statue amid beautiful natural surroundings.


The controversy surrounding the location of the Statue of Unity reflects the broader debate about the allocation of resources and priorities in India. Critics question whether it is appropriate to concentrate such vast amounts of funding and attention on a single project, especially when there are urgent needs in other parts of the country.


The clash of opinions around the location highlights the complexities and differing perspectives regarding the Statue of Unity and its impact on the communities involved.


Economic Implications for Mumbai

The construction of the Statue of Unity has significant economic implications for Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Proponents of the project argue that it will serve as a major tourist attraction, attracting both domestic and international visitors. This influx of tourists is expected to boost the local economy by generating revenue for hotels, restaurants, transportation services, and other tourism-related industries.


With its towering height and unique design, the statue is anticipated to draw millions of tourists who are eager to witness its grandeur. This surge in tourism is expected to create job opportunities in the hospitality and service sectors, providing employment for local residents.


Moreover, the presence of the statue is likely to spur infrastructure development in the surrounding areas. Companies may invest in building hotels, resorts, and entertainment facilities to cater to the growing number of tourists. The development of supporting infrastructure could lead to increased economic activity, benefiting local businesses and residents.


Additionally, the tourism revenue generated from the Statue of Unity can contribute to the overall growth of Mumbai’s economy. The influx of visitors will lead to increased spending on goods and services, boosting local businesses and creating a multiplier effect on the city’s economy.


However, critics argue that the economic benefits are overstated, and the resources allocated to the statue could be better utilized in addressing more pressing issues facing Mumbai. They assert that the city already faces challenges such as overcrowding, inadequate housing, and traffic congestion, which require immediate attention and investment.


Furthermore, there are concerns that the economic benefits of the statue may not reach all sections of society. The tourism industry, which is expected to benefit the most from the statue, tends to be concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy individuals and corporations. This limited distribution of economic benefits could exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities in Mumbai.


Ultimately, the economic implications of the Statue of Unity for Mumbai are a subject of debate. While the project has the potential to bring in tourism revenue and spur infrastructure development, it is crucial to consider the equitable distribution of these economic benefits and ensure that they contribute to the overall well-being of the city and its residents.


Environmental Concerns

The construction of the Statue of Unity has raised significant environmental concerns among activists and environmentalists. The chosen location of the statue, Sadhu Bet island near the Narmada River and the Sardar Sarovar Dam, has sparked worries about the impact on the delicate ecosystem of the region.


One of the main concerns is the potential disruption of the island’s flora and fauna. The construction process and the subsequent increase in tourist activity could lead to habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. The island is home to various species of plants and animals, some of which may be endangered or have fragile populations. The increased human presence and development could threaten their survival.


Furthermore, there are worries about the impact on the Narmada River itself. The increased footfall and tourism-related activities on Sadhu Bet could lead to pollution, waste accumulation, and damage to the river’s aquatic ecosystem. The fragile balance of the river’s ecology could be disrupted, affecting the flora and fauna that depend on it.


Additionally, the transportation infrastructure required to facilitate access to the statue may have negative environmental consequences. The influx of visitors would necessitate improved roadways, increased traffic, and possibly the construction of additional infrastructure. These developments could contribute to increased carbon emissions and exacerbate air pollution in the region.


The construction of the statue also required the displacement of the local tribal community, the Adivasis, from Sadhu Bet. The displacement raises ethical concerns regarding the social impact on the indigenous population and the violation of their rights. This further highlights the environmental and social consequences associated with the project.


Proponents of the statue argue that measures are in place to mitigate the environmental impacts and ensure the sustainable development of the area. The government has emphasized the implementation of eco-friendly practices during the construction and ongoing management of the site. These practices include waste management systems, eco-tourism initiatives, and efforts to restore and preserve the natural ecosystem.


However, critics remain skeptical and argue that the environmental concerns surrounding the location of the statue cannot be adequately addressed. They believe that the resources being allocated to the monument would be better used in initiatives aimed at preserving and protecting the environment, such as reforestation, pollution control, and ecosystem conservation.


The environmental concerns surrounding the Statue of Unity highlight the necessity of striking a balance between development and environmental sustainability. It is crucial to carefully assess and address the potential ecological impacts of large-scale projects to minimize harm to the natural environment and ensure a sustainable future.


Social and Cultural Implications

The construction of the Statue of Unity has significant social and cultural implications, as it affects the communities involved and the broader cultural fabric of Mumbai and India as a whole.


Supporters of the project argue that the statue serves as a symbol of national pride and unity, reinforcing the ideals of patriotism and the spirit of India’s independence movement. It is seen as a tribute to Vallabhbhai Patel’s contributions to the nation and a source of inspiration for future generations.


The statue also holds the potential to become an iconic landmark, putting Mumbai on the global map as a destination of cultural and historical significance. Its grandeur and unique design have the power to attract visitors from around the world, promoting cultural exchange and dialogue.


However, critics raise concerns about the impact of the statue on local culture and heritage. Mumbai, known for its diverse and vibrant cultural tapestry, may face challenges in preserving its unique identity in the face of increased tourism focused on the statue. There are fears that the attention and resources directed towards the statue may overshadow other cultural landmarks and events, leading to a homogenization of the city’s cultural landscape.


The displacement of the Adivasis, the indigenous community living on the island, also raises questions about the preservation of their cultural heritage. Critics argue that the forced displacement threatens their traditional way of life and erodes their cultural identity. Efforts must be made to ensure that the rights and cultural practices of marginalized communities are respected and protected.


Moreover, the social and economic inequalities within Mumbai are exacerbated by the construction of the statue. Critics argue that while the project may bring some economic benefits, the majority of the local population, particularly those in marginalized communities, may not reap the rewards. This deepens existing social disparities and highlights the need for equitable development that benefits all sections of society.


On the other hand, supporters believe that the statue can contribute positively to the socio-economic development of the region. They argue that increased tourism and the associated infrastructure development could create job opportunities and economic growth, uplifting the local communities.


Ultimately, the social and cultural implications of the Statue of Unity are complex and multifaceted. It is essential to strike a balance between celebrating national heritage and preserving local culture, ensuring that the project contributes to the overall well-being and inclusivity of the communities it impacts.


Public Opinion on the Statue

The construction of the Statue of Unity has sparked a wide range of opinions and reactions among the public. The project has been a subject of both praise and criticism, leading to a divided public opinion.


Supporters of the statue view it as a symbol of national pride and unity, representing India’s rich cultural heritage. They believe that the grandeur of the statue and its dedication to Vallabhbhai Patel, a key figure in India’s independence movement, inspire a sense of patriotism and honor. They see it as an iconic landmark that showcases India’s accomplishments.


Furthermore, supporters argue that the statue has the potential to boost tourism and economic development, bringing much-needed revenue to the region. They believe that it will attract visitors from all over the world, stimulating job creation, and raising the profile of Mumbai as a cultural and historical destination.


On the other hand, critics of the statue view it as a misallocation of resources, considering the pressing issues that Mumbai and India as a whole face. They argue that funds allocated to the project could be better utilized in addressing poverty, infrastructural development, education, and healthcare.


Critics also raise concerns about the displacement of the Adivasi community, which was forced to leave their ancestral land to make way for the statue. They argue that this action is a violation of their rights and exacerbates social inequalities.


Additionally, environmentalists express concerns about the impact of the statue on the fragile ecosystem of the Narmada River. They worry about the potential destruction of habitats and the disturbance of the local flora and fauna caused by increased tourist footfall and infrastructure development.


Public opinion on the statue reflects the broader debates within the country about the allocation of resources, the balancing of cultural preservation and development, and the prioritization of social welfare. The controversy surrounding the statue highlights the diverse perspectives held by the Indian public.


Public opinion continues to evolve as the project progresses and as the impacts of the statue become more apparent. It is crucial for authorities and policymakers to listen to the concerns and feedback from the public to ensure that their voices are heard and taken into account in future decisions related to the statue.


Government’s Justification for Building the Statue

The Indian government has presented several justifications for the construction of the Statue of Unity, emphasizing its significance and the benefits it brings to the country.


One of the main justifications is the honoring of Vallabhbhai Patel, a pivotal figure in India’s independence movement and the country’s first Deputy Prime Minister. The government argues that the statue serves as a tribute to Patel’s leadership and his role in unifying India after independence. It symbolizes the values of patriotism, unity, and the spirit of the Indian nation.


Furthermore, the government views the statue as a means to promote tourism and economic development. By creating a landmark attraction of such grandeur, they aim to draw both domestic and international tourists to the region. The influx of tourists is expected to boost local businesses, generate employment opportunities, and stimulate economic growth. Proponents argue that the economic benefits derived from the statue’s construction and the subsequent tourism revenue outweigh the costs involved.


The statue is also seen as an opportunity to highlight India’s cultural heritage, craftsmanship, and engineering prowess. It showcases the country’s ability to undertake ambitious projects and showcases the talent and skill of Indian artists and sculptors. As a result, the government believes that the Statue of Unity will enhance India’s global reputation and increase awareness of its rich cultural legacy.


Additionally, the government argues that the statue will serve as an educational tool, reminding future generations of the sacrifices made by leaders like Vallabhbhai Patel for the nation’s progress. The monument is believed to inspire patriotism and a sense of national pride, instilling a deep appreciation for the country’s history and the ideals it stands for.


While the government’s justification for building the statue focuses on the cultural, economic, and symbolic significance, critics argue that the funds allocated to the project could have been better utilized to address more pressing socio-economic concerns. They contend that the government should prioritize improving basic infrastructure, healthcare, education, and poverty alleviation.


Regardless of differing opinions, the government’s justification for building the Statue of Unity centers around honoring a national hero, boosting tourism, showcasing Indian culture, and inspiring patriotism. Whether the project successfully achieves these goals will continue to be a matter of debate and analysis.


Opposition to the Project

The construction of the Statue of Unity has faced significant opposition from various groups and individuals, citing a range of concerns and criticisms.


One of the primary sources of opposition is the perceived misallocation of resources. Critics argue that the massive financial investment in the statue could have been better utilized to address pressing socio-economic issues such as poverty, healthcare, education, and infrastructure development. They contend that the funds could have uplifted marginalized communities and improved the overall well-being of the population.


The displacement of the Adivasi community, who were forced to leave their ancestral land on Sadhu Bet island, has also been a point of contention. Opponents argue that this action violates the rights of indigenous communities and highlights the disregard for their cultural heritage and traditional way of life. They argue that the project disregards the importance of preserving and respecting the rights of marginalized communities.


Environmental activists express concerns about the ecological impact of the statue. The construction process, increased tourist activity, and infrastructure development could lead to habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and pollution. Critics argue that this undermines the government’s commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability.


Opponents also question the need for such a grandiose statue, particularly in a city like Mumbai already grappling with overpopulation, inadequate infrastructure, and social inequalities. They argue that resources should be used to address these pressing issues instead of channeling them into a singular project.


Some critics view the statue as a symbol of excessive political propaganda and a diversionary tactic to deflect attention from more critical matters. They argue that the government should focus on addressing core issues of governance, policy, and social development rather than prioritizing large-scale monument construction.


Additionally, there are concerns about the commercialization of the statue and the potential for concentration of wealth and benefits in the hands of a few individuals and corporations. Critics argue that the economic benefits are likely to be unevenly distributed and may exacerbate existing social inequalities.


Overall, the opposition to the Statue of Unity centers around concerns regarding the misallocation of resources, displacement of indigenous communities, environmental impact, prioritization of different needs, and political motivations behind the project. It reflects a broader debate about resource allocation, social justice, and the role of monuments in society.



The construction of the Statue of Unity in Mumbai, India, has sparked a heated debate and divided public opinion. While the project aims to pay homage to Vallabhbhai Patel and boost tourism and economic growth, it has faced significant criticism and opposition.


The controversy surrounding the location of the statue, economic implications, environmental concerns, social and cultural implications, and public opinion highlights the complexities and multifaceted nature of the project. Critics argue that resources could have been better used to address pressing socio-economic issues and that the displacement of indigenous communities and potential ecological impact are not adequately justified. They question the need for such a grandiose monument and its impact on Mumbai’s cultural heritage and social fabric.


However, supporters see the statue as a symbol of national pride, unity, and India’s cultural heritage. They believe it will attract tourism, stimulate economic growth, and serve as an iconic landmark of India’s accomplishments. Proponents argue that the statue’s construction and the subsequent tourism revenue will have positive economic implications for the region.


The controversy surrounding the Statue of Unity reflects broader debates about resource allocation, social justice, environmental sustainability, and cultural preservation. It highlights the complex challenges faced by governments in balancing development with socio-economic concerns and the preservation of cultural heritage.


Ultimately, the long-term impact of the Statue of Unity remains to be seen. It is crucial for all stakeholders to continue engaging in dialogue, considering diverse perspectives, and ensuring that the project’s benefits are distributed equitably among all sections of society. Moreover, sustainability and responsible development should be paramount in implementing similar projects in the future.