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Future of state hinges on water management

SURAT: Gujarat is in danger of losing the position of being the second most industrialised state of India if water management is not given priority, state Narmada development minister Jai Narayan Vyas said in Surat on Sunday.

"How you manage water would determine your future and if it is not managed properly, then there is no future," he said while addressing a meeting at the Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Of the 185 rivers in Gujarat, only eight were perennial and they were between the Mahi Sagar and the Daman Ganga (from Vadodara to Valsad) in central and South Gujarat. "While 80 per cent of water is in 20 per cent of the region, 20 per cent of water is there in 80 per cent of the region," he said, quoting statistics in his unique style.

Reacting to media reports of mismanagement of the drought crisis by the state government, he said "It is being portrayed as if Gujarat had all the options but nothing was done."

He blamed environmentalists for spreading "absolute misinformation and blatant lies" through the electronic media. Citing an example, Vyas said the environmentalists had stated that Gujarat had 539 big dams, as per the definition of the International Committee on Large Dams. While according to the Planning Commission, a big dams is one which irrigates 10,000 hectares and above. "This means we have 21 big dams in the state and it proves the basic fallacy of their argument," he said.

Secondly, of all these 21 dams, over 42 per cent of the total capacity was with just one dam at Ukai in Surat district. By the year 2010, nearly 23 per cent of the land in Gujarat would turn saline. One of the basic reasons for the drought in Gujarat, he said, was the erratic and peculiar monsoon last year. Only 12.5 per cent dams had been filled up. "Of the total 2.5 crore drought-affected people we were able to insulate about one crore people. It is my challenge that the state government woke up and woke up early and I can establish this on paper," he said. "As many as 57 dams do not have even a drop of water, including the Dharoi dam that supplies water to Ahmedabad. This was the reason why water had to be supplied from Raska to Ahmedabad. In Rajkot city since April, more than 17,000 tankers have supplied water to the city."

He also countered the argument that big dams were being decommissioned in the united states of america. " Of the total 75,000 dams in the us only 479 dams had been decommissioned till date. And these dams were decommissioned because they were required to put up fish ladders and grates, the cost of which was coming much higher than the dams", he said. According to him, the narmada project had the capacity to irrigate over 19.24 lac hectares of land. The 458 kms long canal was already ready. The total expenditure in the project was to the tune of rs. 9366.78 crores of which rs. 6939.24 crores had been incurred by gujarat. "Between september 18th to 21st, 199 the four days which saw floods in the narmada, over 24,700 million cubic metres of water had flown in the arabian sea. This water could have met the water requirements of the drought affected region for more than 18 years", mr. Vyas said. Narmada waters would be meeting the requirements of over 8215 villages and 135 urban areas. In north gujarat, people had to dig up over 900 to 1000 feet and in one recent instance, there was a blast in one of the bores as gas had started coming up. In ranasam, hot water comes up from bores and it has to be cooled down before putting it to use. Between 1986 to 1988, a sum of rs. 245 crores had been spent for water transportation in gujarat and in 1990-91, another rs. 164 crores had been spent. Gujarat, he said is an absolute water scarcity zone. Such was the situation that in north gujarat and saurashtra fossiled water was being mined, the desert was also advancing in kutch. "Of the total 18,028 villages, over 25 per cent (about 5002) villages were affected with flouride, nitrite and salinity in their water", he said.

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