[ This article was originally written and published in Gujarati in "Bhoomiputra" in November 2000. Translated into English by the NBA ]

Naked Truth about Narmada Project

Veljibhai Desai

Bhoomiputra; 16th November 2000

1. There are 856 villages in Rajkot district. Out of that 803 villages will not get a single drop of water from the Narmada. Only 53 villages will get the water and that means only 6% will be lucky while the rest will remain thirsty. There are 13 talukas in Rajkot District. Out of that 11 talukas will get nothing from the Narmada. The population of this district is 20,93,094. Only 67,230 people of those 53 villages will benefit from the project. This means only 3% of the population will get water. All these figures are published by the Government and the picture of Rajkot is bare before us.

2. Bhavnagar district is formed of 876 villages. Out of that 770 villages will not get a single drop of water from the Narmada. Only 106 villages, 12%, will get the water. The population of Bhavnagar is 18,79,340. Only 1,15,020 people of those lucky 106 villages will benefit from the project. This comes to only 6% of the whole population. This is the bare picture of Bhavnagar District based on the figures given by the Government.

3. Not a single will get water from the Narmada in Junagadh District. This district will benefit nothing from the project as per the Govt. figures.

4. The same is the case with Jamnagar District. Not a single village is lucky in this matter. The whole district is to remain dry as the government figures show.

5. Amrely district too is benefiting nothing from the Narmada as the record shows.

6. Porbunder district is also in the above group.

7. Surendranagar district has 651 villages, out of which 352 will get water from the Narmada. 299 villages 54%- will get nothing from the project. Surendranagar has the population of 10,34,185. Only 4,72,794 people of 352 villages will benefit from the project, which comes to 45% of the population. This is the naked picture of Surendranagar based on Govt. figures only. Considering the whole area of Saurashtra, it is found that out of total 64,34,000 hectare land, 41,77,000 hectare land is agricultural. 3,86,120 hectare of that portion will get the Narmada water, which means only 9% agricultural land will be beneficiary. The rest of 91% will remain dry. These are government figures.

8. Kutch is formed of 948 villages. Out of this 875 villages will get nothing from the Narmada. Only 73 8%- will get water. The total population of Kutch is 10,50,181. And only 90,123 people of those 73 villages will benefit from the project. The Narmada water will reach only 37850 hectares of the total 23,63,100 agricultural land of Kutch. This shows that only 1.6%, less than even 2% land will benefit from the project. The figures are given by the government and the picture of Kutch is so bare before us.

Is the Narmada project in any way a lifeline for either Kutch or Saurashtra? Looking to the area of Saurashtra, 91% of it will get no water and in Kutch 98% will get nothing. This reality will there even when the whole project is completed in next 20 years. Instead of it being lifeline, as per the figures, it may turn out to be a death-knell for Kutch and Saurashtra.

The Narmada project is to cost Rs.22,000 crores, out of which every year the government spends hardly Rs.700 crores. In Saurashtra and Kutch, all other projects like check dams, small dams, irrigation schemes etc. are shelved for the time being and all the resources are employed for the Narmada project. Moreover, the government is entitled to spend Rs.700 crores for this. Till now around Rs.8000 crores are spent and the remaining Rs.14000 crores are still to be spent. For next 20 years this work will go on at the rate of Rs.700 crores per year. The project can never be over in two-three years as it is claimed.

About 90% of Saurashtra and Kutch are will not get water from the Narmada. People of that area are suffering from the problems by force and coercion. Just think how far away is this from the point of justice and mercy? It is sheer injustice to these people. If the justice is to be done, let these one crore people of 4000 villages, who are not gaining from the Narmada project get their share of Rs.6000 crores to make check dams, small dams, etc by themselves. This will make each village get Rs.1.5 crore, from which 150 check dams can be built with Rs.one lakh each. This only will make Saurashtra and Kutch the real garden of Eden and there will be no shortage of water. When the Narmada project is complete those some areas of Saurashtra and Kutch which will get water to 32 lakhs acres feet in total. It comes to 15 inch rain water in the whole regions of Saurashtra and Kutch! Generally Saurashtra and Kutch get 10 inch yearly rain. If the half of it is saved, it will be three times more than the water gained from the Narmada.

With the governmental coercion, the whole public is robbed of money and thereby water-project is centralised. 95% people of Saurashtra and Kutch are thrown to dogs as a result of water shortage. The Narmada project is certainly a crooked network. It is neither surprising nor shocking when so called high flying public leaders cheat people by giving them false hopes of turning their land into heaven by Narmada water but the farmers who are directly associated with the land, the smallscale social workers working in the villages and working for the villagers, the surpanches, the members of gram panchayats, the presidents of village bodies et al should understand the seriousness of these naked facts. They better realise that the Narmada Yojana is not a solution to check dams and small irrigation systems. They should forcibly ask for justice from the government and get Rs.6000 crores directly for such requirements. All this should happen as early as possible.