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Drought due to destruction of catchment areas -- Medha

MUMBAI, MAY 15: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader and member of World Commission on Dams (WCD), Medha Patkar has claimed that the drought conditions prevailing in many states in the country were primarily due to `systematic destruction' of catchment areas.

Countering allegations made in some quarters about the NBA's role in delaying construction of dams resulting in water scarcity and drought in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, Patkar, while addressing the media during the weekend at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, said ``studies have shown that neglect and systematic destruction of catchment areas resulted in drought''.

Patkar, who was in the city to hold discussions with members of WCD, dismissed allegations that the stay on works at the Sardar Sarovar Dam was responsible for the drought in Gujarat and other states and claimed that the dams would serve little purpose in the betterment of the rural population ``as is evident by studies done by the NAB and the WCD''.

Himanshu Thakkar, an expert from South Asian Network for Dams, Rivers and People from New Delhi and member of WCD, described the drought in Gujarat as the century's worst hydrological drought.

``The state had experienced consecutive good monsoons before this year's drought. hence, the drought did not come as a surprise. It is rather a government generated drought as they were quite aware of about the gravity of the situation since September last'', he said.

Justifying his claim that the Sardar Sarovar project would not be a solution to the drought, Thakkar said even if the work on the project had proceeded, only 1.6 per cent of land in Kutch and 9.24 per cent of Saurashtra regions of Gujarat would have benefitted from it.

Prof Shekhar Singh, an expert in drinking water management from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, attributed the scarcity of drinking water in the country to the poor handling of ground water by the state governments.

He called for a revival of the traditional method of groundwater exploitation to help ``recharge'' groundwater.

An expert in traditional water conservation, Sanjay Sanghvi said the state governments should go in a big way for traditional and decentralised water conservation and groundwater recharge techniques.

``Sardar Sarovar, which takes about 85 per cent of the irrigation budget, is coming in the way of implementing these lasting and real solutions'', he alleged.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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