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The Indian Express: National Network: Full story
Tuesday, May 22, 2001

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The Indian Express North American Edition


Water Board to remove pumps from dam site

Bashir Pathan

Gandhinagar, May 21: EVEN as drought-hit Saurashtra battles acute drinking water shortage, the Gujarat Water Supply Board (GWSB) is contemplating removing the high-capacity pumps installed at the Narmada dam site to pump water out of the dam and supply it to water-starved areas through the Pariej-Saurashtra pipeline.

‘‘We have no other option but to remove the pumps from the dam site before they are washed away in floods that may be caused by the impending monsoon. Later, some of the pumps will be installed at the Ukai dam to draw water and supply it to the GEB-run thermal power unit to maintain power generation,’’ a senior official of the Water Board told The Indian Express.

The official maintained that the removal of pumps from the Narmada dam site would not have any adverse impact on the supply of Narmada water to Vadodara, Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Amreli and Junagadh cities and other small towns in the Saurashtra region. ‘‘We will fill up the Pariej and Kaneval lakes, and also ensure that the water-level in the main Narmada canal is maintained at five feet so that the supply lasts till the monsoon arrives in Gujarat,’’ the official asserted.

Referring to the controversy raging over the power and water bills issued to the Water Board by the GEB and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam for using Narmada water, the official said: ‘‘We have requested Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel to intervene in the matter and get both the bills waived.’’

The official refuted the charge made by the Congress that the board’s claim to have quenched the thirst of millions with Narmada water was a mere ‘‘publicity stunt’’, saying: ‘‘Water riots would have broken out in many parts of the state, particularly in Saurashtra, had the Board not decided to pump water from the Narmada reservoir and supply it to these drought-hit areas.’’

However, the 11-member Congress committee headed by former chief minister Dilip Parikh has painted a grim picture on the drinking water front, saying that Namada water is yet to reach many parts of Saurashtra, where people have to trek long distances for a pitcher of water.

The committee members, who concluded their extensive four-day tour of the water-starved districts on Friday, appear to have been convinced by the fact that all was not well despite the Board’s claim and the publicity blitzkrieg by the BJP regime to establish that Narmada water had come as a boon to the people living in drought-affected areas.

‘‘The committee will submit its report to the party on Monday on its findings and expose the government’s claim that the Narmada waters have quenched the thirst of millions,’’ Parikh said.

The committee visited several affected towns and interior villages of Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Amreli and Rajkot districts and gathered all relevant details about the drinking water problem in these areas.

Despite having spent crores of rupees on pumping out Narmada water and laying the pipeline on the Mahi-Pariej route, the Water Board has not been able to supply water to many of the villages and towns reeling under the impact of the third consecutive year of drought, Parikh lamented.

‘‘A major town like Dhandhuka in Ahmedabad district is getting water supply once in two days. And in the rural areas of this taluka, women are seen trekking five to seven km to fetch a bucket of water,’’ Parikh pointed out, adding: ‘‘During the tour, the committee members saw a number of handpumps and borewells lying non-operational in many villages.’’

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