would be 23.3% less than what is assumed. Our figure for irrigation efficiency is almost identical to a World Bank estimate (WB 1985b: 143) made for the SSP using a somewhat different method. The World Bank estimated that only 46% of the water released from the SSP reservoir would reach the fields. It is interesting to note that the Bank did not see fit to mention the implication of this reduced irrigation efficiency anywhere in its documents.
It seems that the World Bank Irrigation Sector Review (1991) must have had the SSP in mind when it made the uncannily apposite observation that: "Most design problems stem from inadequate data and unrealistic assumptions about water availability and irrigation efficiency ... More realism concerning the availability of water and feasible efficiency of water usage is in order. Irrigation efficiency in India has often been assumed to be 60% ... Most irrigation commands in India probably have an irrigation efficiency of 20 to 35%. If assumed efficiency is 60% and actual efficiency is 30%, actual water availability will be half the assumption at design."
Adding evaporative losses would further reduce the efficiency of the canal system. A lower efficiency implies that less water would reach the fields or that the area to be irrigated would have to be reduced. However, the project authorities have already minimized the amount of water they would deliver per unit area (in order to raise the total area irrigable). Thus, the area to be irrigated will drop by an additional 23.3%.
Combining a 17% lower flow in the Narmada, a drop in irrigation benefits by 17-30% in the absence of the Narmada Sagar Dam, and a realistic irrigation efficiency, the irrigation benefits of the SSP are likely to be only 44-53% of what is claimed.
How will the SSP deal with this lowered quantum of irrigation water and irrigable area? The most probable answer, both politically and logistically, is that the tail end of the canal system will be deprived of water. In Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch, and North Gujarat (Banaskantha and Sabarkantha) are at the end reaches of the canal system. 43% of the area to be irrigated by the SSP lies in these drought-prone districts and will, in all probability, be deprived of irrigation. Thus, it is clear that the claim of irrigating the most needy and drought-hit areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat is a mirage in the desert. So too, of course, is the claim of irrigating a part of Southern Rajasthan.