equal to the total utilizable groundwater resources of North Gujarat and Kutch combined ( PP Patel 1993), and more than half of the water that is to be delivered for irrigation! This will also require construction of major drains and related works at a cost of about Rs 1600 crores, to say nothing of the energy cost of pumping groundwater ( CES 1992).
These costs have not figured in the financial cost-benefit analysis of the project. There are very real fears that, given the resource crunch which has already hit the project, such measures will remain neglected, so that even in areas where the problem can be averted, it may crop up.
Before the CES study, the project authorities claimed to have a "foolproof system" to deal with any problems. They asserted that not a single hectare will get waterlogged or salinised. The plan was to have groundwater sensors placed along every 100 Km of the 18,000 Km command area. These would, be linked to a central computer, which would analyse the data and send out commands to the canal heads to stop the flow of water into areas showing signs of waterlogging. In addition, a mix of irrigation-only, drainage-only and irrigation-cum-drainage tubewells would be operated on the command of this central computer ( SSNNL 1989). It would truly be a technological miracle if such a system could be installed and operated. Unfortunately, there is not even a pilot project using this system anywhere in the country. We have no idea how such a highly centralised and complex information and engineering system will work under field conditions. Given the track record of irrigation systems in India, it is unwarranted optimism to hope that such a system will work in a "foolproof" fashion.
Waterlogging and salinisation are amongst the few potential environmental impacts of SSP for which a reasonable quantity of specific data is available. Preliminary surveys have suggested the proneness of large parts of the command area to these problem. Detailed soil surveys, drainage studies, and groundwater assessments have only recently been commissioned, and are not expected before the end of 1993, if not later. The CES (1992) report states that "detailed information on topography, climate, hydrogeology, hydrologic data of major natural drains/rivers, soils and groundwater conditions are required to be collected in a systematic manner...". According to NCA (1993), an "integrated review of soil studies" was "due to start in March 1993" (strangely, this statement has been made in a June 1993 document!). In the case of groundwater and drainage studies, to be done by a foreign firm, the same document has this to say: "start date to be determined". Thus, it is still unknown how much of the command area is actually irrigable, what is the extent of remedial measures to be required, and what is the likelihood of being able to use ground-water to supplement surface waters for irrigation.