over who’ll foot the bill for Narmada water
Gandhinagar, May 16: The Sardar Sarovar
Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) and the Gujarat Electricity Board have
slapped bills totaling Rs 9 crore on the Gujarat Water Supply Board
(GWSB) for drawing and supplying the Narmada waters to drought-hit
areas through the Saurashtra pipeline.
The SSNNL has slapped a bill on the Board, demanding
that the latter pay over Rs 4 crore to the Nigam for pumping out
water from the Narmada dam and supplying it to the drought-hit parts
of Saurashtra and the water-starved cities of Ahmedabad, Vadodara
The Water Board has also taken a dig at the Gujarat
Electricity Board (GEB) for sending it an electricity bill of about
Rs 5 crore for operating pumps installed at the dam site to draw
water from the Narmada reservoir.
Speaking to the The Indian Express on the SSNNL
bill, a senior Board official said: ‘‘It is really unfortunate that
the SSNNL has sought to levy water charges from the Water Supply
Board at the rates of 50 paise per 1,000 liters, despite the fact
that the Board is making the best use of the Narmada waters for
drinking water purpose in this critical period, which otherwise
would have drained into the sea.’’ The official added that the Board
had decided to pump out the Narmada waters and supply it to parched
areas through the ambitious Saurashtra pipeline only at the behest
of the government, keeping in view the plight of millions facing
the acute drinking water shortage in these areas. The SSNNL therefore,
has no business to recover water charges from the Board, he asserted.
In fact, by undertaking to supply Narmada waters,
the Board has saved several crores of rupees which the concerned
municipal corporations and municipalities would have had to incur
for providing drinking water through tankers, he argued.
The official also criticised the GEB for handing out an electricity
bill of about Rs 5 crore to the Board for operating round the clock
as many as 86 pumps to draw water from the Narmada reservoir. ‘‘The
Board is supplying 30 million gallons of the Narmada water per day
to the GEB for running its thermal power station at Wanakbori. If
the GEB does not withdraw its power bill, we will be compelled to
levy water charges from the GEB,’’ he said.
What appears to have irked the Water Board most
is the fact that the GEB has issued the power bill for the month
of March at the rate of Rs 15 per unit, about three times higher
than the ususal domestic rates.
Responding to a query, the official said the
Water Board would soon take up with Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel
both the issue of water and power bills slapped on it and request
him to ensure that the entire electricity bill is waived. In fact,
the Board has helped the SSNNL to test the functioning of its main
canal by making the Narmada waters flow through it.
On the other hand, SSNNL Chairman, Bhupendrasinh
Chudasma, justified the Nigam’s decision to levy water charges from
the Board, saying that ‘‘It is the duty of the Board to supply drinking
water to the people living in the drought-hit parts of Gujarat’’.
‘‘The SSNNL has already spent over Rs 40 crore
on the construction of irrigation by-pass tunnel (IBPT) to enable
the Board to pump out the Narmada waters and supply it to the water-starved
areas of the State. The Board should not have any hassles in paying
the paltry sum of Rs 4 crore as the water charges to the SSNNL,’’