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Gujarat focuses on Narmada as answer to drought

The Times of India News Service

NEW DELHI: For Gujarat the severe drought has served one purpose - it has brought the focus back on the Narmada project. Making use of the widespread media coverage of water scarcity, the state has made a plea for ending the controversy over the height of the dam and other issues so that there is enough water when the drought comes visiting next time.

``If the work on the dam is allowed from tomorrow, water will be flowing through the canals next summer,'' Gujarat's minister for water resources Jay Narayan Vyas said here on Wednesday.

Dealing with various dam-related issues with slide projections, Vyas said the state government had constructed the canals making use of the time when the project work had been held up because of judicial intervention.

He, in fact, hinted of a conspiracy , claiming certain forces were keen to see the green revolution did not spread to newer areas. ``The anti-Narmada propaganda might have something to do with India's emergence as the largest producer of vegetables, fruits and milk; some foreign powers are worried about future markets,'' he remarked.

Dismissing the view that India should not go in for new dams since the existing dams have been decommissioned the world over, the minister pointed out that between 1912 and 1999 the US constructed 5577 large dams and decommissioned only 465 of them.

Vyas said the amount of the Narmada water that had flown into the Arabian Sea in the past year would have been enough to prevent the current drought in the state. At a time when water was being brought from the other parts of the country by trains and sea, the debate over the dam should end. ``We cannot afford this luxury,'' he remarked.

Vyas said the arid Kuchchh area would directly benefit from the Narmada project which will irrigate 1127 sq km of the district. ``All the inhabited villages of Kuchchh will get drinking water from the Narmada project, they are precisely the villages which are facing the worst drought conditions.''

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