[ This is a translation of excerpts from a long editorial that appeared in Kutch Mitra on March 1st, 2001 - in Gujarati]

Earthquake year for dams in Drought year

We are getting more and more information as time passes about the deadly devastation caused to the lives and economy of Kutch by the earth quake of January 26. earlier it was believed that agricultural sector has not been damaged but reports coming in after a month clearly indicate that fields have been damaged too. Lining of bore wells have been damaged also. In midst of all these reports, the report that 5 medium size dams of Kutch have been damaged has caused the farming community a lot of worry... The mitthi dam of Abadasa is broken in any case. There are in any case ony 19 medium size dams in Kutch. There was less rain this year and scarcity. Most of the dams had received very little water and now out of the 19 dams, 5 have been seriously damaged due to the earthquake. Rudramata is the largest dam in Kutch. The people who witnessed the waves and turbulence of water in this dam on the 26th will never forget the sight. Like water overflowing from a vessel, a lot of water from this dam spilled over to the near by farms. This was due to the nature but later it was found that cracks have developed in the bed of these dams and in many cases walls have been broken. On survey, it was found that over and above 5 middle size dams, out of the165 reservoirs in five talukas affected more by the earthquake, innumerable reservoirs have been damaged. In many cases salty water has entered from the cracks into the reservoirs and in many cases sweat waters of the dam have gone away into the ground through the cracks. In many cases water seeped out of the broken walls. The State Government has asked for an opinion from the Centre that what should be done in such a situation. The members of dam safety panel of the Centre had visited Kutch for three days and had seen for themselves the condition of dams. On 5th March, engineers will meet at Delhi and the engineers from Kutch too will remain present. The discussion will be how the reservoirs will withstand earthquakes in future and what should be the design. The biggest fear is that if the repairs are not completed before monsoon and if there will be heavy rains than there will be flood like situation...

State Government is worried about repairing of these dams is note worthy. It is important that repair works should be carried out according to the directions and recommendations of the central Panel. Actually while the survey of the middle size dams is being carried out today, it is also necessary to survey the quality of the works too. The irrigation capacity through 20 medium size dams is 41122 Ha and that of small schemes is 37,400 Ha. But this capacity is only in numbers. Due to siltation in the dams and due to poor quality canals, water is wasted and only 43% of the water is only being used. This means that 57% of the water is being wasted. There are no big dams in Kutch and the condition of medium dams is such poor state.These dams are under the State irrigation department and the small irrigation dams are under the district panchayat and the condition of these is even worse. Truly speaking whether it is medium or small irrigation scheme in Kutch, the works of most of these is below the standard. Corruption has taken place in the irrigation and canal works but there has been no inquiry into the matter or if there is any inquiry at all, it has been suppressed. But now when the central Government has taken the task of improving the condition of the dams of Kutch, it is necessary to take care that the quality is maintained. Kutch is the largest district of Gujarat and second largest in the country. Only 32.23% land of Kutch is cultivable - 82% of this is dependent only on monsoon...it can be concluded that only 18% of the land of Kutch is irrigated through dams, bore wells, small dams, wells. Compared to other parts of Gujarat the irrigation felicity in Kutch is very negligible and out of whatever is there, there is huge wastage of water. Therefore it is expected in the interest of Kutch that when there will be discussion with the central team on the 5th, our politicians remain aware and check that the quality of the works is maintained and that they should also think about the canal construction and removal of silt from the dams.