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tubewells shall be sunk, and operated on the command of this central computer. 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.

Canal Operation Policy

If the SSP were to be built, the first areas to receive irrigation would be Bharuch, Khera and Baroda districts. Already economically strong and politically powerful, their regional clout would increase tremendously with irrigation. According to the World Bank Staff Appraisal Report (WB 1985), the earlier reaches will initially be given more water since the canal system will not be ready to carry the water beyond the Mahi (This is a common practice in all irrigation systems). Is it politically feasible to reduce this quantity later on? Once farmers get water in large quantities, they tend to switch to water intensive cash crops like sugarcane as has happened over the entire Ukai command. When water begins to be diverted to those at the further reaches of the canal system, those close to the canal head "apply for canal water to 'save' the standing crop and sanctions are given 'on humanitarian grounds' and 'in order to prevent wastage of national wealth'" (Dhamdhere 1986: 167). The economic and political clout that comes from growing sugarcane makes it very difficult for the government to then give less water to these farmers.

It is indeed no coincidence that seven large sugar factories are coming up in the initial reaches of the SSP command area. That they are doing so despite the fact that almost no sugarcane is grown there at present (0.05-0.67% of gross cropped area in 1981-82: SSNNL 1989:194), is a clear indication that those in positions of power in Gujarat are confident of a large source of sugarcane in the locality in the near future. In the Ukai project in Gujarat, sugarcane now accounts for over 75% of the command area, though the planners had originally decreed that only 30% of the command area shall grow sugarcaune. History, rather predictably, appears to be repeating itself.

The official canal operation policy of the SSP needs to be examined in the light of this political reality. The policy specifies that a limited quantity of



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