the Times Of India

Monday 1 May 2000


 Breaking News
 Indian Business
 Intl Business

 Top StoriesTop stories
across papers

 PhotoGalleryPhoto gallery
 IndiatimesIndiatimes  Cartoon



Times Cricket Ratings

Today's Chat

ET Quick Qoute

Type the name of the company to get the latest BSE/NSE stock quote

Email this page
Narmada issue props up, thanks to drought

By Bharat Desai

AHMEDABAD: When drought last struck Gujarat in 1987, Sanat Mehta -- an expert on water resources and then a minister -- recalls that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi told Gujarat leaders to turn this into a "blessing in disguise" by executing a water supply plan that would provide a lasting solution to the problem.

Mehta was requisitioned to chalk out a detailed plan to supply the Narmada waters through a pipeline to Saurashtra, which he did. But the blessing never came through because the Rs 750-crore project got entangled into bureaucratic-political quagmire and never saw the light of the day.

Come `Drought 2000' and the Gujarat government is once again hoping this would generate some support and sympathy for the state's stand on the Sardar Sarovar Project, dogged by delays, legal battles and opposition from neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, sources said, is also planning to take up the Narmada issue strongly before the Union government when he discusses the drought situation with Central leaders for financial assistance next week and remind Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of his promise at an election meeting in Ahmedabad early this year that he would try to negotiate for a Cauvery-like solution to the Narmada imbroglio.

Reports reaching from New Delhi suggest that the latest round of hearing going on in the apex court has also focused on the drought in the state and whether the SSP could have helped mitigate the situation - if the project was allowed to be completed on time.

Magan Barot, lawyer for Chunibhai Vaidya, who heads a pro-Narmada NGO, argued in the Supreme Court on Thursday that the SSP was the only panacea for the severe scarcity conditions prevailing in Saurashtra and North Gujarat.

The plea by state government's counsel Harish Salve said the project should be allowed to go ahead full steam if the persistent problem of water in the semi-arid regions of the state are to be solved quickly.

However, Narmada Bachao Andolan lawyer Shanti Bhushan countered that if the state government was really concerned about the water crisis , it should have cleared the proposal mooted in the late 1980s for taking the Narmada waters by pipeline to Saurashtra from a point downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

On being contacted in Vadodara, Sanat Mehta, who had conceived the pipeline project in his capacity as the state's finance minister and Narmada Nigam chief, told TOINS that the Rs 750 crore pipeline water supply scheme would have helped the Saurashtra areas till the time water reached this drought-prone zone by canal. "Rajiv Gandhi had told me that let us use this drought as a blessing in disguise by executing a drinking water scheme that would provide a permanent solution to the problem," he recalled.

Mehta, however, regretted that though the scheme was examined carefully by the P A Raj Committee, successive governments did not pay any attention to it. He said, "Unfortunately, every time there is drought, we are doing some patch-work repairs without any thought being given to water-shed management, roof-water harvesting or check dams."

The former minister, however, agreed that the current spell of drought would generate sympathy for Gujarat and may remove some of the hurdles that are impeding the progress of SSP.

According to Vadodara-based Narmada Bachao Andolan spokesperson Nandini Oza, the people of Gujarat should realise that the drought is the creation of years of neglect of alternative water schemes for Saurashtra and North Gujarat and because 85 per cent of the state's irrigation budget was being spent on SSP,

"We in Gujarat have finished off our reserves of ground water thinking that Narmada water would come anyway, but the waters are still far away," she told TOINS.

The NBA activist said nearly 131 small water schemes of Saurashtra and North Gujarat had not been allocated any money for several years because all the funds were going for SSP. The people, she said, should also realise that there is hardly any allocation from Narmada for the areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat, all severely affected by drought.

Asked whether the drought would generate some sympathy for Gujarat on Narmada, she said: "Far from it, people will see the drought as a creation of SSP."

The Economic Times


State gets pat, full help promise from Centre

Advani gets low-down on drought despite masking efforts

Clueless CM says cows coming from Rajashtan

Narmada issue props up, thanks to drought

Soldiers on border fighting unusual enemy

Bureaucrats unhappy over `mismanaged' relief work

Ministers hold meetings to tackle drought

Gujarat under pressure to open vidis

NCP emerging as third alternative: Pawar

Gorwa rape victim retracts charges

Dishnet opens Net service in Ahmedabad

Concern over poor application of environment laws

Gujarat emerging as major fish exporter

Sex workers to be rehabilitated at women's home

Vadodara to get water once a day

Threats to industrialists a hoax: Police

Pakistanis beat up, loot Indian fishermen

Wanakbori power unit gives record output

NGO helps police arrest man for wife's suicide

Work begins on Ahmedabad-Mehsana highway

Vadodara to have model transport nagar

SKS to hold protest rally on May Day



|Home| |India| |Cities| |World| |Sports| |Entertainment| |Indian Business| |Intl Business| |Stocks| |Infotech| |Health/Sci| |Editorial|

|Subscriptions| |About the Publisher| |International Times| |TOI Audience|
For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service

For comments and feedback send Email
© Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 2000.