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Gujarat faces drought, Vidarbha hopes for relief
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Wednesday, November 22, 2000

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Gujarat faces drought, Vidarbha hopes for relief

GANDHINAGAR, NOV 21: There is an air of panic and anxiety as the Gujarat government prepares to deal with a drought much worse than last year. Borewells are being dug all over the state, desalination plants are being put up, ships are being arranged and, if this is not sufficient, trains will also be deployed to send water to drought-hit parts of the state.

Even the incomplete Narmada project will be tapped. Since the dam has not yet reached a point where water will start flowing into the canals, water will be lifted by pumps from the Sardar Sarovar for feeding a network of pipelines which will carry it to some of the worst-affected areas like Amreli and parts of Bhavangar, Rajkot and Junagadh districts.

The anxiety arises from the fact that many of the dams and reservoirs are already dry, and those which still have water are likely to go dry by January. ‘‘We have only 4,200 million cubic metre water in the 174 dams and reservoirs against a capacity of about 5,000 million cubic metres. Last year, around this time, we had double this quantity’’, said Water Supply Minister Narottam Patel.

Already, cities like Rajkot, Jamnagar, Bhavangar and Vadodara are facing problems. Tankers have started criss-crossing rural Saurashtra. The number of affected urban centres is 70 and villages more than 6,000. In the next few months, the situation is going to turn worse, and would continue to deteriorate, with no possibility of relief before next monsoons. Hundreds of borewells are going to be dug all over the state. In fact, Rajkot is already completely dependent on water brought by a 50-kilometre pipeline from borewells in Wankaner. Patel admits that the state will have to look for other sources. ‘‘A lot of borewells were dug last year and there may be very little groundwater in certain area,’’ he says.

In North Gujarat districts of Banaskantha and Sabarkantha, 30 desalination plants are going to be set up. Tenders are already being processed. Some plants will be set up in Kutch district also. Sanghi Cement has agreed to supply drinking water to Lakhpat and Abdasa talukas of Kutch from its desalination plants. ‘‘We will have to pay Rs.15 crore, but this is yet to be finalised,’’ says Patel. Last year, Reliance had supplied water for Jamnagar from its desalination plant.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, during a recent visit to Mumbai, discussed the state’s problem with industrialists. Narottam Patel said Reliance Industries had agreed, in principle, to provide three ships to supply water to coastal areas of Saurashtra. ‘‘Water could be filled up in the ships from the Narmada at Dahej in Bharuch district, and transported to Saurashtra,” he said.

Last year, the government had deployed trains to send water to certain areas. This year, ‘‘We will study how much water will be available from which scheme and then decide on the other options,’’ said Narottam Patel. Work is under way on a war footing to complete the Saurashtra Pipeline which will carry Narmada waters to parts of Saurashtra. The original plan was to tap the Kadana and Panam dams in the Panchmahals, in central Gujarat, and also use the Mahi waters.

But, for the first time in many decade, these dams have very litte water, while Mahi is reduced to a trickle.

So water would be lifted from the Sardar Sarovar, and carried by an existing network of canals to the pipeline, which is going to cost around Rs 250 crore.Rocks and hillocks are being drilled to construct a tunnel to take the Narmada waters to the existing canals.

The scheme is expected to be ready in two months.

But areas like Amerli, which are already in the grip of a crisis, can’t wait that long. So, 160 borewells are going to be dug shortly in Kanewal and Pariyej areas in Kheda district.

There have been protests from farmers who fear their own wells may go dry, but Narottam Patel says they had been convinced that it is ‘‘a temporary measure’’.

Team to study drought

Jaipur:The Rajasthan government has urged the Union Government to send a team to study the drought that has gripped the state for the third consecutive year. The state governement has already sent a detailed memorandum to the Centre, seeking Rs 2367.80 crore assistance to provide relief to 3.30 crore people and four crore livestock of 30,583 villages in 31 districts reeling under the famine. Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot presided over, a meeting of the Cabinet and reviwed the famine situation and arrangements for water, fodder and power supply in the affected areas.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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