SSP to quench the state's thirsty throats
By Krishnaprasad Z Patel
THE water scarcity crisis in Gujarat is fast heading towards a denouement.
Narmada has been the only perennial source which remains untamed in Gujarat. Narmada brings a very large quantity of water that almost equals the aggregate water brought by the rest of the state's rivers. Hardly 10 per cent of Narmada's water is presently put to use by Madhya Pradesh. The rest of it goes to the sea as a wasted resource.
Again, the recurrent floods in Narmada spell havoc in the riparian areas in terms of loss of human and animal lives, erosion of fertile soil with standing crops and ruination of commodities and properties. Thus there is an excess of water on one side in Gujarat and an acute dearth of even drinking water - water for irrigation being out of question - at the other end. So it is a simple problem of water-management - diverting excess and wasted water to areas where it is needed for the sustenance of humans, animals and vegetation.
The Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) takes up this challenge. The project is going to benefit 70 per cent of the drought-prone areas in Gujarat and would irrigate 1.9 million hectares of agricultural land. It will provide water to 30 million people and produce food for 20 million persons. Each and every village and town in Saurashtra and Kutch will get drinking water, under this project. In all, 8,215 villages and 135 towns are to get drinking water. Fresh water supplied by the project will eradicate fluoruosis from 4,659 villages (out of a total of 19,111 villages). The project will provide employment to a million workers in their own villages. Further, it will generate 1450 MW of cheap, clean hydel-electricity. Thus water that is being criminally wasted presently, will be put to use to save an entire region.
Damming the rivers and creating river reservoirs is one sure method of storing water that would otherwise go waste to the sea. However, of late, some environmentalists are of the opinion that rivers should be allowed to flow freely, unhindered. No dam - either large or small - should hamper the river's flow. Some moderate ones oppose the construction of only large dams. The main objections to large dams are : they ruin the environment and are contrary to social justice as they uproot a number of people affected by the projects. So far as SSP is concerned, both these objections stand totally unfounded.
SSP seeks to contain the advancing deserts in Kutch and South Rajasthan and to enrich the environment to a substantial extent in the region.
As regards social justice to SS Project Affected Persons (PAPs), SSP is unique in its liberal package for their Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R). In fact, SSP aims at the greatest good of the greatest number of common men. In this project, there are 100 beneficiaries as against one PAP. All these 101 people are to benefit from the project.
On completion of this project, the water problem of in the state would stand solved to a major extent. The project is likely to be supplemented by the Par-Narmada link canal, to transfer more water from the south to the north.
(The author heads Narmada Abhiyan, one of the most effective pro-dam groups in Gujarat)