Second phase of Narmada canal work begins
By Yusuf Khan
CHANASMA: In what was described as a historic occasion in the history of the Narmada project by Narmada development minister Jaynarayan Vyas, Union water resources minister CP Thakur started the ignition of a brand new excavator marking the beginning of work on the second phase of Narmada main canal at village Kamboi in this semi-arid zone of Patan district on Friday.
Vyas and Sardar Sarovar Nigam chief Bhupendrasinh Chudasma said for the first time, after late prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru laid the foundation stone for Narmada dam over three and half decades back, another cabinet rank Union minister had associated himself with the Narmada project.
Hundreds of villagers, Congress MP Pravin Rashtrapal, BJP MLAs and ministers from the area attended the glittering ceremony. The beginning of the work on this part of the canal will ultimately take it to Rajasthan through Patan, Mehsana and Banaskantha district.
The tenders of Rs 550 crore for this part of the main canal (263 to 357 km ) have been finalised and the work is expected to be completed by 2003. The SSNNL plans to take up the canal alignment up to 458 km on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border as the work on sub surface investigation and land acquisition process has been going on.
Thakur, addressing the gathering, said the Union government was keen on implementation of the Narmada project and it would initiate the process of negotiations after the Supreme Court gave its verdict on the dispute by convening a meeting of concerned chief ministers.
The minister said if disputes with neighbouring country after war could be settled across the table, he wondered why the inter-state dispute like Narmada could not be resolved through negotiations. He promised to take up this process whatever would be the verdict of the Supreme Court.
Vyas was critical of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and said barring MP which kept on creating hurdles in the implementation of the project, other two states Rajasthan and Maharashtra had now agreed to implement the project.
While contribution from other states was not coming on time, he suggested that the Union government should deduct this amount from the plan allocation to the concerned states and send it to Gujarat.
Vyas wanted Congress MP from the area Pravin Rashtrapal to use his good offices in convincing the MP government to realise the importance of the project and help implement it.
He came down heavily on the Narmada Bachao Andolan for obstructing the work in the name of human rights and preserving environment. In an indirect reference to the NBA, he said these self-styled protagonists of human rights and environmentalists should visit north Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch and see themselves the need of water for these starved regions.
Warning the anti-Narmada activists, Vyas said they should not test the patience of people of Gujarat. He complimented Union finance ministerYashwant Sinha who had made provision of Rs 415 crore exclusively for Sardar Sarovar in the allocation of Rs 1,200 crore last year for irrigation projects.
The minister said, "Is it not violation of human rights when people who drink water which causes kidney and stone diseases are denied water which is free of flurosis?"
The function was addressed among others by minister for small and medium irrigation Nitin Patel, Congress MP Pravin Rashtrapal and MLAs of the area.