Dammed if you do and damned if you donít
Jayanthi Iyengar & Radhika Singh
NEW DELHI 27 APRIL
BLAME it on Medha Patekar, Arudhati Roy, the internecine battle between the state governments or the paucity of funds, but it is undeniable that 13 consecutive years of a `normal' monsoon have made Indians so complacent that little effort has been made to prepare for the eventuality of drought.
As a result, Gujarat today faces the worst ever drought in 100 years with over 9,200 out of 18,000 villages in the grip of extreme drought. In neighbouring Rajasthan, 23,406 out of 34,693 villages have been affected, while a similar situation exists in nine other states including Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana.
Given the investments made so far (over Rs 15,000 crore), it is disheartening to note the money sunk into the various water work projects yet to see completion, for different reasons.
Take the better known Sardar Sarovar Project. The original estimated cost of the project was Rs 6,406 crore. Upto February í00, the state government had sunk in Rs 9,195.66 crore. Yet the project is nowhere near completion, with the state facing legal wrangles and fighting with other states to pay up their share of the cost towards the dam. Had the project been completed in time, it would have supplied drinking water to 8,125 villages and 135 towns in Gujarat, including 948 villages and 10 urban centres in the Kutch region.
The Maheshwar project also in MP, is rendered futile because it does not even have an irrigation component and power at a prohibitive Rs 12-15 per KWh for domestic, agriculture and industrial consumers. In Rajasthan, salvation could well have come from the Bisalpur Dam Project. The project can be completed only at the cost of 50 villages (25 of which would be totally submerged) but on completion, the project would have provided irrigation in Tonk and Sawai Madhopur districts of Rajasthan, apart from providing drinking water to Ajmer, Beawar, Kishangarh, Jaipur and the villages and towns en route. The project is currently stuck with the state government having spent Rs 223.69 crore on the project.
The Indira Gandhi Canal, the largest irrigation project in the Thar desert, does not suffer from problems of human displacement related to dams. But after having spent about Rs 3,500-odd crore, including cost escalations amounting to Rs 500 crore, all that the state government can say is that the first stage is near completion. The second and final stage may only be through by í05, provided adequate funds are available.
In Madhya Pradesh, over 26 major irrigation projects and 31 medium projects are in various stages of implementation. In Haryana, the last leg of the SYL canal hangs fire because of a 33-year-long dispute. As a result, just six km of the 127 km canal remain incomplete, dispelling any hope of making south Haryana a water surplus area.
In Almatti, the issue is entirely different. The dam exists, but it has run dry with no effort being made to conserve water in the catchment area.
The ultimate irrigation potential of the country through major, medium and minor irrigation projects has been assessed at 139.9m hectares. At the end of the Eighth Five Year Plan, only 89.6m hectare irrigation potential had been created. Of this, maximum usable potential exists in rivers like Narmada, Mahi, Sabarmati, Subernarekha, Mahanadhi, Cauvery, Krishna, Godavari, and the Ganges. The rivers of the north east too have usable potential.