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Saurashtra ushers in another year with dried-up hopes
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Wednesday, January 3, 2001

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Saurashtra ushers in another year with dried-up hopes

INTRO: According to Irrigation Dept officials, the grim water crisis could worsen when, by March-end, all the dams in the region will go dry. HIMANSHU KAUSHIK reports

The New Year brings little cheer for Saurashtra, which is heading for one of the worst water crises it has ever faced. Although summer is still far away, most of the dams and reservoirs in the region have already gone dry.

Officials of the Irrigation Department, who monitor dams and reservoirs, describe the situation as grim. By March-end, well before the onset of summer, all the water in the dams will be used up, they say.

That means the region will be dependent on borewells, water tankers, and the Saurashtra pipeline, which will bring Narmada water and which the state government is trying to complete on a war footing before summer.

Officials says as many as 60 per cent of the 113 major and minor dams in the region are dry. Another 20 per cent have dead storage level which should, normally, not be used. But even this water is being used and will be exhausted by this month-end, they say.

Since this is the second consecutive year when the monsoons have failed, comparisons with last year are obvious. Then, in spite of the crisis, water in some of the dams, like Sasoi and Aji III, was reserved exclusively for irrigation. This time, even Aji III has been reserved exclusively for drinking water needs of Rajkot and Jamnagar.

In Bhavnagar circle, which includes Bhavnagar, Junagadh, and Amreli districts, 20 of the 32 major dams are dry and most others have dead storage level. Last year, some of these dams had sufficient water to help maintain a curtailed supply right up to the rainy season.

Amreli Collector S A Golakia said that only two of the eight medium dams in the district have water and the situation was ``worse as compared to last year''. The same is the case in Junagadh district, says Collector Sunayna Tomar. In the Rajkot division covering Rajkot, Jamnagar, Surendranagar districts, half of the 42 dams are dry, while 17 have dead storage level. In the other Rajkot division, only two of the 33 dams have some water.

Already, fights over water have become common. In the first week of November, a youth, Ajitsinh Pachubha Jadeja, was stabbed to death in a dispute with a neighbour over collection of water from a municipal standpost in Rajkot town.

Last Saturday, when Finance Minister Vajubhai Vala visited Upleta town, he was surrounded by about 600 women, who were angry over erratic water supply. The minister, who had gone there to hear public grievances at a `lok darbar',had to be escorted to safety by the police.

Also, last week, Pravinbhai Pritambhai Koli, a farmer of Vallabhipur, committed suicide because of financial problems caused by the second successive crop failure. According to the Vallabhipur police, Pravin had taken a farm on hire. Last year, he had to borrow money to pay off the land owner. This year, with the nightmare of another crop failure looming large, he just hanged himself.

Naturally, everybody is praying for the completion of the Saurashtra pipeline, which is expected to ease the situation in many towns. But, in thousands of villages, where the wells are likely to go dry, the administration will have to fetch water over long distances.

Rajkot Additional Collector K D Kapadia said that over 700 villages in the district would have to be supplied water by tankers. In fact, tanker service has begun in about 160 villages and will be started in another 21 in a few days. In areas like Jamkandorna, the administration may have to fetch water over more than 25 km, he said.

Copyright © 2001 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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