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The provision of drinking water is one of the main moral and political justifications for the SSP in Gujarat where acute water scarcity has been a crippling problem and an emotionally charged issue. The recent droughts in Gujarat, especially in Kutch and Saurashtra, have highlighted the lack of assured sources of drinking water and the urgent need for water security in this and land. Under the SSP, drinking water is planned to be supplied to 8215 villages and 135 urban centres in 12 districts, including all villages and cities in Kutch and Saurashtra.

While the moral imperative of supplying drinking water is, in a sense, beyond considerations of cost-benefit analyses, the sheer magnitude of the project justifies a close look at its planning and feasibility.

Official Information on Drinking Water from SSP

Very little detailed information is available about drinking water supply from SSP. Most project literature lists only goals, targets and claims, perhaps in the belief that frequent repetition of an assertion will make it into a fact. For example, it is claimed that 32.5 million people will be supplied drinking water [Raj 1990:11]; that the project will permanently solve the water supply problems of all villages in Kutch and Saurashtra [Raj 1990:56]; that the supply of drinking water from SSP is economically viable [GOG 1991:132]. None of this is backed up by any data.

The SSP authorities appear to be very confused about the number of towns and villages to be supplied drinking water from the SSP, and the number of potential beneficiaries (See Table 4). At the time of the NWDTA, no figures for drinking water beneficiaries were mentioned. Since then, the number has changed several times, and quite drastically too, from 28 million (MSSB 1983) to 32.5 million [Raj 1989] to 40 million [Raj 1992] and again to 25 million [SSNNL 1993]. Similarly, the number of villages that are supposed to benefit has increased from zero in 1979, to 4719 villages in the early eighties, to 7234 villages in 1990 and finally, to 8215 villages in 1991. There has been no concomitant increase in the quantum of water earmarked for drinking water.

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