Indian Express, November 3, 1999

State rejoices over SC verdict on dam; Kutch unhappy

D.V.Maheshwari, Bhuj, Nov.2

Source: The Indian Express, November 3, 2000

Bhuj, Nov 2: Though the people of Kutch welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), the State's largest district refrained from participating in the grand celebrations at the dam site in Kevadia on Tuesday.

The only top National-level leader hailing from Kutch was Union Home Minister L K Advani who inaugurated resumption of construction work. Though other local BJP leaders and workers attended the function, they did it without any feeling of joy.

On the other hand, non-BJP leaders from Kutch, including former Mandvi MLA and former Congress president Jaykumar Sanghvi, gathered in front of Sardar Patel's bust at Anjar to protest against poor allocation of Narmada water to the border district.

Unhappy with the amount of water allocated, Kutchis have knocked the doors of Gujarat High Court with a prayer for ``just and need-based allocation of water from the river Narmada,'' a leader of the Kutch Jal Sankat Nivaran Samiti, which has been crusading for more water for the district said here today.

The case is still at the hearing stage, with both parties six petitioners from Kutch and the State Government and Narmada Nigam currently engaged in a war of filing affidavits and counter-affidavits against each other to strengthen their cases.

The Kutchis feel their case has become stronger following the Supreme Court verdict announcing full implementation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal award. The dam height of 455 feet and the canal of 300 FSL (full supply level) was fixed by both the Khosla Commission as well as the Narmada Tribunal keeping in view the perennially arid land of Kutch. The Kutch have, therefore, rejected the latest suggestion of Narmada Development Minister Jaynarayan Vyas made during a newspaper interview last month that a panel of experts should examine the case of Kutch afresh.

``Why a fresh study when the Tribunal is clear on the issue and the Supreme Court has directed its implementation?,'' a spokesperson of the Jal Sankat Nivran Samiti asked, pointing out that this would delay work on the Kutch canal.

Vyas said it was impossible to supply water to Kutch through the gravity canal as it entailed huge expenditure and posed technical problems too.

The Samiti spokesperson denies this, saying that the State Government in its affidavits to the Supreme Court had stated that though Kutch could get water through the flow system (gravity), it would go in for the lift system for economic reasons.

While presenting its case before the Narmada Tribunal, the Government had said it wanted 5.56 million acre feet of Narmada water to irrigate 12.17 lakh acres of land in Kutch. The spokesman said the latest allocation for Kutch is 0.496 million acre feet (MAF) to irrigate 1,12,700 hectares in the five eastern and southern talukas. He demanded to know on what basis the Government had presented its case for more water if it could not manage such little allocation through gravity fall. This showed that supply of water through natural flow was possible both financially and technically, he said.

The spokesperson said that in the award of the Tribunal, Kutch was shown as an area falling under gravity while Saurashtra was under lift system. The border district was shown as the 13th separate zone, but Kutch was later linked to Saurashtra zone and numbered 11. No explanation has yet been given for this change.

Also, though the original conveyance capacity of the Saurashtra sub-canal was fixed at 253 cusecs, it was changed to 319 cusecs and it has now been fixed at 424 cusecs. The spokesperson said no reasons were given for this increase, while the Kutch branch of the Narmada canal was kept at 170 cusecs.

He said a pit for the Kutch canal had not been dug, though work on the Saurashtra canal started in 1992 and has even been completed. The spokesperson alleged this was done to give more water to Saurashtra as Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel hailed from there.

Copyright 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.