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Gujarat Govt, not NBA to be blamed for drought -- Medha

NAGPUR, MAY 17: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader, Medha Patkar, blamed the Gujarat Government for the present `mess' of drought and drinking water problem in the state and refuted the charges that non-completion of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) was one of the reasons for drought situation the state.

During her one-day Nagpur visit on Tuesday, Patkar alleged that all these years the state government has not done any substantial efforts for water harvesting and water recharging, giving it the central place in water planning of the state. On the other hand, the non-government efforts have proved their isolated successes in these very `drought-affected regions' long back. Now the state politicians are resorting to the same `old gimmick' of invoking the name of Narmada project. They blame the non-completion of the Narmada project as the cause of worsening the drought. "The drought is now being used to justify the project of doubtful utility, but of immense political leverage", she further said.

Patkar candidly admitted that the samiti was not able to counter the allegations of the Gujarat Government on this issue effectively due to lack of man-power and resources.

According to her, even if Narmada project completes, the problem would not be solved. "We have to develop the catchment areas", she said and added that long-term solution lies in a decentralised water conservation network along with the optimum ground water of the available rain water and ground water in the drought-affected regions. Imperative measures for ground water recharge include restriction on its excess extraction for cash crops and `green revolution' style agriculture.

According to the NBA leader, the drought situation prevailing in Kutch and Saurashtra regions in Gujarat is not a natural calamity but man-made.

Lashing out at the Gujarat Government, she said that the state government has not taken the watershed development and sea ingress prevention works seriously. In the 7th plan of Gujarat, Rs 54 crore were allotted for the purpose of watershed development programmes, of which 50 per cent has been utilised, resulting in the decrease in the allocation for the 8th plan down to Rs 50 crore. A realistic irrigation policy and plan would consider the optimum demand of the region, the land, terrain, ecological conditions and the needs. It also does not necessarily mean excess grain production in every area. It can be development of suitable resources which contribute to the larger demands and to the local prosperity. Grassland development, dairy development, forestry, small-scale industries based on local produce, and such diversified economic activities are all possibilities, she added.

Sardar Sarovar, which takes about 85 per cent of the irrigation budget of Gujarat and comes in the way of implementing these lasting and real solutions, can not be a real solution for the whole of drought-prone regions. There is an urgent need to have the decentralised water harvesting solutions all over Saurashtra and Kutch. This is possible only if the state government becomes less concerned with the dam and concentrate on providing the water, she said.

Patkar also alleged that there was no rational distribution of water in the drought-affected Gujarat state. Major chunk of water is being consumed by industrial houses in big cities.

The social crusader alleged that a sizable section of business community was lobbying for privatisation of water distribution system. The attempt should be opposed vehemently, she said.

Answering a question, she said that not a single project-affected family was rehabilitated by the authorities of ambitious Gosikhurd irrigation project of Vidarbha in Maharashtra, so far. "We are not opposing the Gosikhurd irrigation project, but insisting for a proper rehabilitation of project-affected people", she pointed out. Patkar has come here to mobilise the Gosikhurd project-affected people in the region.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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