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Sunday Jun 04 2000
Updated 0121 hrs IST 1451 EST
Gujarat begins harvesting water to tackle crisis
Binoy Sharma
NEW DELHI
THE GUJARAT government has devised a special programme to encourage people to conserve water so that the 1999 water famine is not repeated in the coming years.

``We want t encourage people to recharge ground water. Water harvesting has been given an impetus by the government,’’ says Ashok Bhatt, minister for health and family welfare and food and civil supplies. At least 10,000 applications have been received by the Gujarat government.

``The cost will be split. The government will pay 40 per cent, while the 60 per cent will be contributed by the villagers,’’ says Bhatt. He also insists that there is an urgent need to complete the Narmada project if the water scarcity in Gujarat has to end. He also denies the allegations that the state government was late in responding to the drought conditions.

``No that is not fair criticism. We started preparing for the drought in September last year. Hence, we have been able to mitigate the sufferings. No one has died in the state,’’ he explains.

Gujarat is probably the only state where in spite of the drought the prices have not shot up. ``Instead it has gone down. The PDS system has been functioning well. The price of foodgrains are lower this year than last year. It is very rare that this happens in a drought-hit state. Even milk production in the state has been up since last year,’’ explains Bhatt.

The government has also introduced a `kalyan chab’ (welfare basket) where condoms, iron and chlorine tablets and ORS packets are distributed free to people from the 14,000 fair price shops in the state.

``It has been a great hit in the state. The health ministry has asked us to prepare a paper on the scheme so that it can be circulated throughout the country,’’ he says.
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The Times of India
 

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