Water enough for 15 years went down Narmada during floods
By Sajid Shaikh
VADODARA: Floods in the Narmada have cost Gujarat dearly. The 10-day saga of Gujarat's largest river going berserk has not only displaced a sizeable population and caused loss to property, but has also caused colossal wastage of precious water.
According to the estimate of the Narmada flood control centre and the Central Commission on Water, the water that flooded the villages could have taken care of the state's entire requirement of water for the next 15 years.
During the peak of floods, Gujarat lost 23,000 cumecs or seven lakh cusec of water every second! This water virtually went down the drains every second for 10 days!
"They cry foul over a dam and here is what we lose every year... in present context, every second. Water in abundance goes to waste in Narmada, Bharuch and Vadodara districts (that dot the course of Narmada) during floods. And, in Saurashtra and Kutch, people die of scarcity of water!," lamented a senior engineer with the CCW. Requesting anonymity he said that while anti-Sardar Sarovar activists have caused incalculable damage through their anti-dam stand, the government too has done precious little.
"There is dearth of awareness among villagers to conserve rain water. They don't make straits or small reservoirs which can serve to store water. Or channels running parallel at a distance from the river side," said the senior engineer.
These views are shared by ecology expert from M S University's department of botany N S R Krishnayya. "Villagers need to be informed about watershed management systems. There should be an effort at the collectorate level to bring grassroots-level awareness about the tools of water conservation," Dr Krishnayya said. He remarked that a little initiative on part of the bureaucracy can reap rich dividends for the rural populace.
Officials at the collectorate also admit to the fact but say that they have several impediments. "Such schemes should be backed by a strong government will. Often it happens is that watershed management schemes start with a big-bang but lose momentum and direction midway," says a senior official.
Last year, an effort for small watershed management systems for drought prone areas in central Gujarat had been worked out by MSU's Water Resources Engineering and Management Institute. The systems were used to cover the deficit of water because of lack of hand pumps or due to geographical limitations in the drought-prone terrain. WREMI director G S Parthasarthy and his team had worked on the project.
"But a lot more needs to be done to tap the natural resources like rain and convert floods into a blessing in disguise," observes WREMI engineer Nimit Shah. "For instance in Chandod, just about 5 to 6 km from the river, there is a long canal. A method can be devised to use this canal as a reservoir during floods. This will only need channelising," he said.
Such schools of thought are aplenty but have remained confined to class room debates or university-level discussions. Experts feel that if a strong initiative is taken by the bureaucracy, involving field specialists and academicians, droughts won't have such overwhelming effects, let alone floods.