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No water from Narmada, crisis looms large over Gujarat

Within a month of retaining power for the sixth consecutive time, the Vijay Rupani-led BJP government appealed farmers to not sow any crops this summer.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2018 08:24 IST
Hiral Dave
Hiral Dave
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad
Gujarat,Ahmedabad,Sardar Sarovar Dam
A view of the Sardar Sarovar Dam that was dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Mod at Kevadiya in Narmada district. (PTI File Photo)

Bhupat Lakum, a farmer from Adroda village near Gujarat’s Ahmedabad, was glued to his television set when Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over a ceremony marking the completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on September 17 last year.

The event terminated the 57-year-old project on the Narmada, and with the dam finally standing at its full height of 138.68 metres, Lakum hoped for an end to irrigation and drinking water woes.

In December with campaigning for the assembly election in full swing, Lakum sowed paddy on his 60 bigha land. He thought he had little to worry — the Congress was promising a farm loan waiver and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed if it came back to power, it will irrigate the whole of Gujarat with Narmada waters.

He was wrong. Within a month of retaining power for the sixth consecutive time, the Vijay Rupani-led BJP government appealed farmers to not sow any crops this summer.

The reason: There is no Narmada water supply for irrigation. Even industries have been asked to look for alternative sources while civic bodies will have to manage through local reservoirs to prevent drinking water shortage.

The state government additionally said it had not made any alternate arrangement for irrigation from the middle of March.

The administration holds the paucity of water, caused by a poor monsoon, in the Narmada basin responsible for the situation.

“The quantum available in the Sardar Sarovar Dam is adequate to maintain drinking water supply. But there would no irrigation supply from March 15. That is why the state government has asked farmers to not to go for summer crops,” said deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.

The state government says storage in the Narmada dam has dropped by 45% — the lowest in 15 years — due to poor rainfall in Madhya Pradesh last monsoon.

“Usually, the state receives about 9 million acre feet (MAF) of water. Of this, 0.20 MAF is give for industrial use. However, this year, the state has received only 4.71 MAF water,” said chief secretary JN Singh.

The monsoon is not expected to hit the state before June.

The farmers say the announcement has come late as many of them have already sowed crops. Summer crops such as groundnut, paddy, sesame, millets and pulses are grown over 1.5 million hectares in the state.

“In our villages we do have borewells, but that can irrigate a maximum of four to five bighas. I have sown in 75 bigha. The government’s announcement came after my sowing was already completed,” said Bhagwan Koli Patel from Kocharia village.

Lakum also alleges that water was freely flowing ahead of the elections. “Did authorities not know that due to insufficient monsoon the available water was only half of the required quantum?” he asks.

He says he has spent Rs700 per bigha on seeds besides paying labour and other charges. “I am staring at loss of a whole season.”

“In districts of south, central and north Gujarat that do not come under the Narmada command area, the water in past seven years was supplied by linking local irrigation schemes with the Narmada canal. This flow has been stopped with immediate effect,” said Balwantsinh Padheria, who represents the Khedut Sangharsh Samiti, a farmers’ body, in central Gujarat.

The regions covered under the Narmada canal command area too have to make alternative arrangement till the end of April when the paddy is usually reaped.

“The Narmada dam and canal authorities should have figured out during monsoon that there would not be enough water in the dam to maintain uninterrupted drinking and irrigation supply,” said Sagar Rabari, secretary of Khedut Samaj (Gujarat).

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 08:24 IST