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The trickle-down effect
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Sunday, November 19, 2000

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The trickle-down effect

A look at the map of the Sardar Sarovar Project's command area may suggestthat it isn't really the much-touted ``Lifeline of Gujarat''. Ninety percent of Saurashtra and Kutch, where water scarcity and droughts are arecurring phenomena, fall outside the command area. The canals taking offfrom the Saurashtra branch cover only the northern and eastern fringes ofthe region, while the Kutch branch skirts past the major landmass of thisborder district on its way to the terminal point at Mandvi in south.

But the map shows only the canal network and the areas this network willirrigate; it does not show the extensive network of pipelines which theauthorities are planning to lay to supply drinking water to scores of townsand thousands of villages of these parched regions which have no perennialsource of water and where rain is scarce.

Gujarat is entitled to get 9.0 million acre feet water from the SardarSarovar Project. Drinking water supply is an important component of theproject, which is expected to quench the thirst of 8,215 villages and 135towns and cities.

Water will start flowing into the Narmada Main Canal once the dam heightreaches 110 metres. The canal passes through Surendranagar district, Maliya,Miyana, Ahmedabad district, Kadi, Harij and Radhanpur a belt which isknown for recurring water scarcity. Naturally, all these areas will getwater for drinking as well as irrigation.

The Saurashtra branch takes off from the main canal near Kadi in Mehsanadistrict. In Surendranagar, it will split into six sub-branches, going toMaliya, Dhrangadhara and Morbi in north and Vallbhipur, Limbdi and Botad insouth. The Saurashtra branch, along with its sub-branches, will take care ofthe irrigation and drinking water needs of Surendranagar, and northern partsof Rajkot and Bhavanagar districts. The Kutch branch will similarly benefitthe areas along it right up to Mandvi.

That leaves out 90 per cent of Saurashtra and Kutch areas like Amreli,Jamnagar, Porbandar, Junagadh and Rajkot where drinking water has alwaysbeen a problem. Bhupendrasinh Chudasma, chairperson of the Sardar SarovarNarmada Nigam, which is executing the project, admits that ``large parts ofSaurashtra and Kutch'', which aren't part of the project's command area,won't get water for irrigation. But since drinking water is the firstpriority in the national water policy, the government is planning a networkof pipelines to carry water to problem areas. ``If there is no furtherdisruption of work, Narmada waters should reach all corners of Saurashtra byJune 2002,'' says Chudasma.

Next month, tenders will be floated for an extensive network of pipelines,called the Bhaskarpura project, which is expected to be completed in one anda half years and will cost around Rs 1,400 crore. It will supply drinkingwater to 31 urban centres and 1,345 villages in Rajkot, Surendranagar,Jamnagar and Kutch districts.

As much as 500 million litres will be lifted daily from Saurashtra branch atBhaskarpura in Surendranagar district and fed into a pipeline which willcarry it 131 kilometre to Wankaner in Rajkot district. From Wanakaner, a 70kilometre pipeline will carry 152.76 MLD to Rajkot, taking care of sevenurban centres and 422 villages. Another 27 kilometre-long pipeline willcarry water from Wankaner to Morbi.

Here, it would be further split into three smaller pipelines: a 97-km one toJamnagar which will carry 115 MLD and meet the needs of seven urban centresand 293 villages, a second to Halwad in northern Surendranagar which willcarry 100 MLD water for 564 villages and nine urban centres, and a third toBhuj in Kutch, which will take care of eight urban centres and 455villages.

Another project, called Saurashtra pipeline, costing Rs 252 crore, isnearing completion and is expected to be commissioned in January. Since theheight of the Narmada Dam has not yet reached the point where water canstart flowing by gravity, water will be lifted by pumps from the SardarSarovar reservoir and brought to the pipeline by an existing network ofcanals. The pipeline will meet the drinking water needs of Amreli,Bhavnagar, Rajkot and Junagadh districts.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel says a firm time table has been drawn and hewas personally monitoring the progress of the pipeline project. If theproject is executed as per schedule, Narmada water for drinking purposesshould reach parched Saurashtra by next March.

Several smaller pipelines branch off from this pipeline to supply water toother places. But the main beneficiaries will be Amreli town, 613 villagesin Amreli district and 795 villages in Bhavanagar district, said B.J. Shah,director of Canals in the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam. While thesepipelines will considerably ease the drinking water crisis, these are alsoexpected to help agriculture and industry indirectly. Says Shah, ``Once theNarmada water starts flowing into the taps, the water in the local dams andreservoirs, which is now supplied to drinking water schemes, can be used forirrigation and other purposes.'' It may not be sufficient, but it woulddefinitely help, according to him. Adds Dhirubhai Vithalani, president ofRajkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry, ``We know the Narmada water is onlymeant for drinking. But its arrival will definitely give a boost to industryand agriculture.''

Chudasma is confident that the canals and pipelines will be completed by thedeadline and funds will not be a constraint. However, the delivery cost ofwater is going to be high. As Mahesh Pandya, president of the Samajik NyayKendra, who is also a environment engineer, points out, the topography ofSaurashtra is such that water will reach by gravity only till Surendranagar.From there, it will have to lifted by pumps to send it to different parts ofSaurashtra. Both Saurashtra pipeline and Bhaskarpura project will,therefore, have a number of pumping stations.

What difference will it make to the thirsty people? Well, just to get anidea, Rajkot city now gets water for 20 minutes on alternate days and, insummer, the situation is bound to get worse. After the Bhaskarpura projectis ready, city authorities say they will be able to ensure a 40 minutesupply daily. There are places where the situation is worse than Rajkot.There are places where people have to make do with water which is just notfit for drinking. It is therefore natural that local residents have come toregard the SSP as their lifeline.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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