Jobat Project: a Critique

PROJECT PROFILE:

The Jobat dam is to be constructed at village Waskal of District Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh) across the river Hathni-a tributary of the Narmada.  This dam is one of the 30 major dams being built in the Narmada Valley, as part of  the controversial Narmada Valley Development Project (NVDP).

The main dam will have a maximum height of 34.6 m with a subsidiary earth dam that will have a maximum height of 17.73 m.  The main canal of length 29.73 km is on the left bank.  The area to be irrigated will be 9848 ha., with the proposed annual irrigation going up to 12,507 ha., according to the DPR (Detailed Project Report) of the Project.  The Project has no power generation component.

The command area lies in 27 villages of the Kukshi block of Dhar district.  The topography of the command area is highly undulating.

According to the DPR (1983) submergence due to the Jobat reservoir will be in 1216 hectares in 13 villages of Jhabua district and will affect 595 families.  The forest area to be submerged is 104.24 ha.

DISPLACEMENT, COMPENSATION AND REHABILITATION : OUSTING THE DWELLERS OF THE RIVERSIDE AND COMMAND

2.1.   WHAT IS AT STAKE: HOW MANY PEOPLE, HOW MUCH LAND?

According to the 1963 DPR, the dam will cause submergence in around 1210 hectares in 13 villages of Jhabua district.  The number of families to be affected by reservoir submergence, as mentioned in the DPR is 595. Without doubt, this figure must have greatly increased with the passage of the last 15 years.

Yet in the February 1997 proposal for obtaining loan from NABARD submitted by GOMP, while on one hand project costs have been shown as having gone up from 26.91 crores to 96.92 crores (at 1996 prices) the number of families to be affected have been reduced to 325 families.  So costs and prices gallop ahead, but the rate of growth of population is negative!

Obviously the reduction of the number of affected families to 325 is patently false.  If it is not a gross error, it can only be interpreted as a deliberate attempt to minimise the impact of the submergence and the concomitant rehabilitation responsibilities.

CANALS SUBMERGE TOO:              

  The 1998 Status report of the NVDD for the Man Project mentions that the land required for main canal and distributary is 226.12 ha against which 116.896 ha is already acquired, and for balance 109.224 ha., proposal is under consideration.  If this is so, it means that hundreds of families will be affected by canal submergence in addition to the originally mentioned 595 families in the reservoir submergence, who will actually qualify as Project Affected families entitled to rehabilitation, as per the MP rehabilitation policy for Narmada Projects.  But where is the land and where is the rehabilitation plan for canal oustees?

LAND FOR NISTAR

The Environmental Appraisal Report of the Jobat Project (April 1983) mentions that the extra area required for forestry in the command area to compensate for the Nistar and grazing needs of the people shifted from the submergence zone to the Command area is 500 ha.  Diversion of the is part of the command from the present use, which will entail some cultivation certainly, will increase further the list of oustees.

LAND FOR RESETTLEMENT

Supposing, even if the outdated and extremely conservative estimate of 595 families given in 1983 is used to represent the total universe of oustees due to the Jobat Project, a  minimum land area of 1600 hct (600x2x1.3) will be required for R&R purposes for reservoir oustees alone.  Updated figures for reservoir submergence as well as accounting for those losing their lands in the canals will raise the requirement of land for R&R by several factors.

Any governmental lands or private lands acquired for the purpose of R&R and which oust further populations will only add to the list of Project Affected  families entitled for resettlement.  (No end in sight)

2.5  The Rehabilitation Policy of the GOMP for the oustees of the Narmada Projects define the Project Affected as those…."whose lands will be permanently or temporarily submerged or which are required by the Project for any other purpose". 

Under this policy, all persons losing more than 25% of their lands to the Project become entitled to receive land for land and community resettlement (the other oustees will have different entitlements).

It is clear that when the total numbers of families affected by the canals, those losing their lands for additional nistaar development as well as those losing their lands and livelihoods for the development of rehabilitation villages are counted, the figures of those affected will go up to several thousands of families.

Yet, till today, despite the Rehabilitation Policy, no enumeration or comprehensive attempt to account for displacement by the Project and the subsequent outlining of the responsibility for rehabilitation has been done.

STATUS OF R&R: EMPTY  PROMISES FOR FUNDS AND CLEARENCES

In the Environmental Appraisal Report of the Jobat Project (April 1983) it is mentioned in the checklist submitted to the MOEF (mandatorily required under the Environmental Protection Act ) that…

“….the persons displaced by the submergence are proposed to be resettled in adjoining areas in the command area by giving them plots of land in the existing villages.  All basic amenities are also proposed to be provided to the oustees of the submergence area as per norms fixed by the NWDT Award”.

Further

….”mostly the people affected by submergence will be absorbed in the villages in the command.  However, a final project specific plan is under finalisation with the National Productivity Council which has already given its first report on the basis of socio-economic surveys…”

In the same report, in response to the specific query as to whether Master Plans have been prepared for rehabilitation colonies and what the administrative technical arrangements proposed to ensure “quality of life in rehabilitation settlements”, were, GOMP replies that  “…detailed plans of  rehabilitation colonies are being prepared.  State government policy as per Narmada Tribunal Award will be implemented ”.  The same plans and premises of rehabilitation and resettlement are echoed in the DPR

Yet, in February 1997, in the proposal for loan submitted to NABARD by GOMP, the project authorities report a progress in the R&R front stating that 62 hectares of private land coming under submergence has already been acquired and compensation PAID.Clearly, cash compensation paid.  In the same paragraph, the proposal mention that “..resettlement of affected families is in progress in accordance with the provisions of the R&R policy of the Narmada Valley Development projects of the state”.

In the same proposal, in response to the pointed query “whether rehabilitation problem is likely to come in the way of completion of project work”, GOMP responds that …”no rehabilitation problem is arising because the rehabilitation works are in progress in accordance with the R&R policy of the Narmada Complex Projects of NVD of the State”.

So, this is the reality.  That private lands have been acquired in village Badi, Khattali, Sindhi and Dabhadi and cash compensation paid without rehabilitating the affected families or giving them land.  That similar plans for land acquisition awards and cash compensation are in progress for the other 12 affected villages and their overwhelming number of tribal families.  That there has been absolutely NO rehabilitation until now, only land acquisition under an Act framed in colonial times.   That not only is there no rehabilitation, no concrete possibility or plan for rehabilitation exists.  No detailed plans for rehabilitation colonies.  No Project specific plan for resettlement made by the National Productivity Council.  No identification of land for resettlement in the command.  Not for housing , not for agriculture, not for nistar.  No plans even for the basic amenities.  Indeed even the status report on Jobat of the Narmada Valley Development Department of Sept 98 states that of the 548 affected families only 311 families  are to be rehabilitated and that only 5.9 ha of land has been acquired for rehabilitation purposes till now!

It reiterates the refrain being carried on since  1982 that the proposals for the R&R of oustees is under finalisation and that the oustees will be settled in nearby area of this project.

The promises of resettlement and the reiteration of policy are only for the funders and the clearances.  For the affected people there is only land acquisition, cash compensation, dispossession.  Only the wiping out of their village from the map of India without the erection of another land to call their own.

And this is the status in 1997-98 when out of the originally planned 26.91 crores, 2674 crores have already been spent on the project, but not a single paisa has gone towards rehabilitation.

Clearly, this is unacceptable.  The status of R&R or lack of it is a flagrant violation of the Narmada Award and the state policy and of the environment clearance given to the Project by the MOEF and the NABARD.

It is a betrayal of the constitutional responsibilities of a democratically erected government towards its people.

OF LANDS, SOILS AND FORESTS

In the environmental appraisal report submitted to MOEF, GOMP states that it would undertake to do the following as part of environmental measures for the Project.

A. To conduct and carry out an environmental studies survey

B. To do soil conversation work in the command.  The soil conservation work was to be done in 45,000    hectares of the catchment with 4000 hct taken up every year.

C.  to do afforestation work in the catchment

D.  to do afforestation work in the command

E.  to raise canal side plantations.

This in situ work in catchment and command should have preceded or at least been parri passu with the construction  works.  Yet while 10% of the dam work and 30% of the canal work has been completed, no implementation of the promised environmental safeguard measures has been done.

The status report 1998 mentions that 392.43 ha of forests are coming under submergence, and that the project has finance of nearly 27 lakhs for afforestation, and that in the future plantation along canals will be taken up.  The question is when will it be done.

Similarly the Status Report says  that the study for catchment area treatment has already been conducted by IPI, Dehradoon and proposal are under finalisation with the Agricultural Department. A provision of 30 lakhs has been kept for this activity which is likely to be completed by 2003! Similarly the restoration of  the construction area has been considered and a proposal for 5 lakhs has been kept for it.

It must be pointed out that the above measures are not bureaucratic requirements.  Apart from being legal requirements conditional to the environmental clearance, they are predicated on an understanding of the fundamental relationships between forests, soils and water holding capacities and are in essential and a PRIORI requirement, for the full development of the catchment and the command as well as long term, sustained yields and use of irrigation potential.  Yet, like R&R, there has been no work done on this front, violating the conditions of the clearance.

PROJECT BLACKLISTED.

As a result of no work having been done in the areas of rehabilitation or environmental safeguard measures by the Project authorities (which they had undertaken to do as conditional to the environmental clearance) in the 8th meeting of the Expert committee of the MOEF for river Valley and hydro-electric Projects held on the 23rd and 24th of May, 1995, the Jobat Project was blacklisted for not following/fulfilling ANY of  the conditions laid down   in the environmental clearance.

The Project authorities have violated the legally binding provisions of the NWDT Award and the state rehabilitation policy as well as the conditions of the environmental clearance. TABLE

The GOMP has to immediately and seriously intervene.  If the Project is allowed to proceed, it will probably attract revoking of the environmental clearance, as well legal interventions in public, so serious are the violations.

OTHER LOSSES OVERLOOKED

While looking at the cost-benefit of the Project, many significant losses,-both in quantitative and qualitative terms seem to be either discounted or overlooked.

The only loss that has been acknowledged is that of the 13 submerging villages with 595 families, which have mysteriously decreased to 325 in 12 years time.  However, the figure of 595 families and 13 villages has been calculated at FRL.           

At MWL, many more lands are likely to be flooded which have not been accounted for.  The landscape around the submergence zone is flat and undulating and a small rise in waters may go a long way as submergence.   The Hathni is a temperamental and tempestuous river and it is highly likely if the dam is built that high floods will submerge large tracts of land beyond what is anticipated.

Loss due to submergence has been underestimated not only in extent but qualitatively.  In 1993, the Project DPR describes the agriculture in the area as primitive with irrigation coverage on only 2% of the cultivable area.  The reality since the late 1980s has been that the entire submergence is irrigated through lift from the Hathni as well as the bewildering number of streams that criss-cross and pass through the submergence villages.  Thus loss of 693 ha of agricultural land may mean the loss of a gross cropped area of over 1000ha not a negligible figure by any means.

Apart from submergence, the DPR itself mentions that the loss of forests has not been calculated or included in the benefit cost ratio and similarly, that the value of the crops under canals and command  has not been calculated or included.

There is no estimate of existing catch from subsistence fishing which probably may be higher than is envisaged in commercial fishing, nor acknowledgement of the fact that several important varieties of fish like the ghagra (Rita pavimenta) will be entirely destroyed due to the damming because their rock crevice habitats will be silted over.  There is no study of how damming the Hathni will affect the fish that travel upwards into the Hathni from the Narmada, for breeding purposes.

Not taken into account either is the rich archaeological potential of the area with statues and mounds abounding in many of the submergence villages.  Also overlooked are the important tribal religious traditions such as the annual tribal fair held at Macchlia on the Hathni banks in the propitiation of their tribal gods.  The fair which attracts tribals form distant areas will cease, as the gods propitiated and the sands of the Hathni submerge forever.

The Hathni sands are regarded as one of the best varieties of sand available for house construction.  A great deal of quarrying work takes place in Hathni banks which will cease with submergence. This is an important economic activity yet no quantification of this loss is included in the Benefit-Cost Analysis.

Nor has any study of the downstream impact of the Jobat dam on drinking water, lift irrigation schemes or fisheries been studied. It is to be noted that successive administration in Jhabua have initiated many innovative lift irrigation schemes on Hathni banks.

THE QUESTION OF THE COMMAND: DO WE NEED THE JOBAT PROJECT?

OVERLAP: COMMAND AND SUBMERGENCE

The Jobat Command falls in 27 villages of the Kukshi block of District Dhar.  5 of these are in the Sardar Sarovar submergence: Chandankhedi, Molkhad, Bhawaria, Nawadpura and Malwadi  Chandankhedi, Molkhad and Malwadi are affected at 90 m dam height of SSP and have recently received notices to this effect under the aegis of the Supreme Court.

Thus, if the Sardar Sarovar is constructed only a few meters more than 18% of the Jobat command will be UNDER water, not in the need of irrigation waters.

This only underlines the utterly absurd and fragmented nature of planning of the Narmada Projects.  It also means that if the Sardar Sarovar is constructed a few meters more, even the non, submerging villages of the command close to the reservoir may have easier access to waters from a considerably broadened Narmada/Uri/Baghini rivers rather than from the Jobat canal.

STATUS OF IRRIGATION IN THE COMMAND: THE PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY WATERED THEIR FIELDS.

A. The 1983 DPR describes the status of irrigation facilities in the command, mainly through wells and tanks.  It mentions that in 1983, 16% of the command was irrigated.

Wells use in 1983 (Pro-rata calculations as per 1983 DPR)

WELLS USE IN  1983 (PRO-DATA CALCULATIONS AS PER 1983 DPR)

No. of wells w/ traditional devices-

Area Irrigated

No. of wells w/ pumps - Area Irrigated

Draft Domestic pumps

Total

1183 wells

369 wells

  38.9 ha

999.4 ha

  591.3 ha

  369 ha

       

That is, in 1983, irrigation coverage through wells in the command area was nearly 1000ha, when 37.4% of the available ground water was being utilised.  That is, even then a possibility of irrigation of another 1500 ha existed through the use of ground water utilisation structures like wells and tube wells.

The DPR also mentions that due to the presence of thick weathered zones and secondary porosity, dug wells in this area are excellent for ground water discharge.

6.2B  STATUS OF TANKS IN 1983 (DPR 1983)

Capacity of existing tanks in command                1467.3 ha

Irrigation capacity of proposed schemes                1430   ha

                                              Total                 2897.3 ha

Thus irrigation capacity of tanks in the command around 1983 (including proposed projects) is  2897.63 ha.

Summing the irrigation potential of wells and tanks around 1983 (including proposed tank schemes) we find a total irrigation potential of around 3900-4000 ha.

6.2C CHANGING SCENARIO:

The government figures from revenue sources for  the villages of the command show a changed picture.

IRRIGATION DATA FOR 1997  (REVENUE SOURCES)

Villages in Comand

Total cultivated area (ha)

Irrigated area (ha)

Thus, present irrigation as % of CCA= 71.70%

26 villages (out of 27)

CCA: 9848- 242.7=9605.3 ha

6887.626 ha

 

Data for  village Bharadpur could not be collected.

IRRIGATION BY SOURCE  (REVENUE DATA OF 1996-97)

No. of wells

Well irrigation

No. of tanks

Tank irrigation

No. of tubewells

Tubewell irrigation

2725

6103.161

       9

  95.076

No. not known

  325.25

PERCENTATE OF TOTAL IRRIGATION BY SOURCE

% of lift irrigation in total irrigation

   19.6%

% of well irrigation in total irrigation

    88.6%

% of tank irrigation in total irrigation

      1.38%

% of tubewell irrigation in total irrigation

       4.72%

    100%

TANK UTILIZATION IN THE COMMAND

Name of village

Irrigation capacity

(DPR 1983)

Water utilisation

  1995-96

Therefore, Average percentage of water utilisation  from tanks = 7.9%

Mogra

  200 ha

  11.22 ha

 

Barda

  56 ha ( 1 tank)

  10.55 ha ( 2 tanks)

 

Silkuan

200 ha   (1 tank)

    2.84 ha (1 tank)

 

Talanpur

359.83 ha

   40.135

 

CHANGING LAND UTILISATION: 1983-1995/96

No. of villages

Net sown area in 1983 (ha)

Net sown area in 1996-97 (ha)

26 villages

12,881.8 ha

16,390 ha

Thus : I) % increase in net area under cultivation = 27.24%

6.2D . From the above, it can be seen that:

Even without the dam construction, the net total cultivated area has expanded tremendously by (3509 ha i.e. 27.24% ) lands hitherto fallow and/or left for pasture have presumably been brought under cultivation.

Irrigation coverage in the command area has increased significantly from 18% (DPR, 1983) to around 71% of CCA, today in 1998.

Thus 71% irrigation of CCA has already been achieved and the status of the development in the command raises the fundamental question about whether the Jobat Project is now necessary at all.

It may also be useful that we gain some insights about the internal structure of irrigation  to help us to draw

In 1983 the profile of irrigation was thus:

Well irrigation: Tank irrigation (including proposed projects)

1000 hct: 2897 hct.

i.e. almost 1:3

Yet, we find, from information about the command, that the proportion of well irrigation in total irrigation is around 88.6%, i.e. no. of wells have increased manifold.

The performance of tank irrigation seems abysmal.  Utilisation of capacity ranges from 1% to 10% with an average % utilisation .  Unutilised capacity is over is over 2800 ha.

The productivity of wells seems even higher than envisaged by the DPR.  The DPR envisages a draft of 0.5 ha per well fitted with traditional devices and 1 ha per well with pumps.  The figures for these 6 villages reveal that the productivity of wells in this area is around 2.5 ha per well. This could mean that there has been a shift from traditional devices to pumps, a better availability  of ground water than envisaged and/or a fuller utilisation of this ground water.

 

However it is clear that investment in ground water utilisation is far more productive and more cost

effective (35000-40,000 for 2.5 ha=Rs.16,000 per hct) than investment in the Jobat dam. (110 crores

9848 hct=1.l1 lakhs/hct).

3.  IRRIGATE AND DESTROY: SOIL SURVEY IN THE COMMAND.

One of the major issues in irrigation is which lands to irrigate and how.  All lands cannot be

indiscriminately irrigated and certainly not by one means alone such as canal irrigation.

Soil depth and type and texture, topography of the area, condition of pH and alkacity, slope of the

land, etc. are all factors that determine whether the lands are amenable to irrigation and if so, in

which form.

A detailed reading of the soil survey of the 22,000 hct in the Jobat command reveals the following:

SOIL SURVEY (DPR 1983)

CLASS                          AREA                         DESCRIPTION

Class 2                       4075.645 ha                    Moderate limitation for sustained use under irrigation

2s                                1553.3ha                        Limitation of soil texture and depth. Soil texture can                     

                                                                           be improved by application of farmyard manure but 

                                                                          soil depth cannot be changed.

2st                                2694.64 ha                    Limitation of soil and topography, can be removed by

                                                                          land shaping.

Class 3                          4394.86 ha                   Severe limitation for sustained use under irrigation

3t                                      476.65                        Severe Limitation of topography can be stopped.

3s                                    171. 7 ha                    Severe limitation of topography, cannot be improved

                                                                          by shaping because of soil depth.

3st                                 3746.5 ha                     Severe limitation of soil depth and topography cannot

                                                                          be improved by shaping because of soil depth  

Class 4                          7625 ha                       Marginal for sustained use under agriculture.

4s                                    1090.2 ha                    Severe limitation of depth.  Will require huge

                                                                          investment and careful management for cultivation.              

4st                                   6494.19 ha                  Severe limitation of depth and topography. Difficult                                  

                                                                          to improve, irrigated cultivation will require huge

                                                                          investment.

  Class 6:                        6737.4 ha                     Completely non-irrigable.

Thus the lands that seem amenable to canal based irrigation(where the degree of control once the

resource is created is low), are 2t + 2st + 3t = 27.9 + 2694.64 + 476.65 = 3199.15 ha.  

Class 2s soils have not been included because the limitation of soil depth cannot be improved/changed

by any means.  Similarly 3s, 3st, 4s, 4t and 4st soils have not been included because limitation of soil depth cannot be negotiated  when in combination with limitation of topography.  Class 3t soils have been included despite severe limitations of topography because it can be improved by levelling.

However, supposing, stretching the limitations of irrigation we were to include even 2t soils in the

lands suitable for canal irrigation, even so area requiring canal irrigation would increase from

3199.15 ha to only4752.45 ha.

Thus, in reality only 3199 ha of land in the command is amenable to canal irrigation i.e. less than

half of the culturable command envisaged by the Project authorities, and stretching that to 4752.45 (about 50%) .

The Project Report mentions 9848 ha as the actual culturable command without giving any details as

to how they arrived at these figures.

It is possible that disregarding the realities of soil and topography, the figures were inflated for

benefit-cost purposes or to justify the project-a common enough phenomenon.  Yet, if all these lands

were to be irrigated by means of canal irrigation they would inevitably face erosion, loss of the fragile

topsoil and a steeply falling productivity.  The soil survey also mentions that 64% of the area suffers

from severe to very severe erosion (interestingly, the budget provisions of the February 1997 proposal

to NABARD does not specifically mention the enormous finances required for land shaping unless it

is included in the catch all 90 lakhs provision for environment and ecology!)

However this does not preclude these lands not amenable to canal irrigation, from being irrigated in a

controlled manner from wells or tanks or through conservation of moisture.  But decisions will have

to be made for them field by field, land by land.  This irrigation will also have to be preceded by

measures of soil development and capacity creation.

That is the major lesson that this detailed and painstaking soil survey teaches us.  It is not something

to be included and ignored as has been done in the 1983 DPR.  Nor is it a means of merely disproving

the irrigability of the command.  It teaches us precisely this: that soils and lands and water systems

and habitats and environments are complex mosaics, not an undifferentiated whole.  And therefore

they require by the way of human intervention- respect and understanding of their complexity and differences and

a multiple strategy of action towards their sustainable and full use.

IN SHORT, THE PICTURE OF THE COMMAND THAT EMERGES FORM THE ABOVE DISCUSSION IS THIS:

1. Nearly 18 % of the command is in SSP submergence.

Even as far back as 1983, the command had a combined irrigation potential of around 4000 ha. (This includes proposed tanks which were to be developed then, in the near future).  That is, the command had a plan for the development of 4000 ha.  Irrigation potential WITHOUT the Project.

Since then irrigation coverage has increased tremendously (18% to 71% of CCA from 1983 to 1995-96).  Land under cultivation has also gone up tremendously. (3509 ha by 27.4%)

From the proportion of well irrigation it can be deduced that number of dug wells have gone up tremendously to many factors of the original 1983 use, and that utilisation per structure has also doubled.  Thus an enormous additional irrigation capacity through wells  has been created in the command.

The soil survey of the command reproduced in the DPR shows that because of limitations of soil depth and topography, and its erosion prone nature.  It may be wise   to irrigate only 3199 ha of the command at most upto   4752 ha.     

The actual irrigation capacity available today through tanks, ground water utilisation and

lifts from rivers is 6887.6 ha, a greater area than should have been, prudently irrigated.

In simple words, irrigation in the command area does not require the Jobat Project.  It is being done at present viably and efficiently without the dam.  Additional irrigation if required at all can be achieved by a complex of other means (with a better utilisation of tanks as priority), servicing the irrigable lands in the entire command.

It is clear that the in situ development of water sources and resources of the command and its catchment may suffice for full and sustainable development of the agricultural potential of the command.  It is also clear that canal irrigation of the command on the scale envisaged by the Project might actually  be undesirable and destructive, and that different forms of irrigation and moisture conservation will have to be planned for different parts of the command.

Figures for irrigation proposed through the Jobat canals thus appear unrealistic today.  The Sukhta dam experience and the abysmally low utilisation of the reservoir waters for submergence led the NVDA to respond to a CAG (Comptroller & Auditor General) query that much of the underutilisation of Sukhta is because of 1246 wells that already existed in the command prior to dam construction are being utilised in preference to the dam. There is no need to repeat the experience.

This dam will be built at tremendous human and financial costs.  To compound this, if it is significantly under utilised, as it undoubtedly will, with the present level of development of water resources in the command, it will not be worth the construction.

SOME ADDITIONAL ISSUES ABOUT AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION AND CHOICE OF COMMAND.

The question of Food production.

The 1983 DPR makes a critical mention that agricultural production in the command is mainly of food crops and that this is a sign of underdevelopment of irrigation facilities and infrastructure of the command.

It is not clear what the objection to food production is or what the perceived objective of water and agricultural development in the Narmada Valley is according to the Project Authorities.  If food security, self-reliance and food production are important national and sectoral goals, it has to be reflected in the planning perspective not as a regrettable and undesirable state of affairs, but as a desired and positive end.  Facilities and policies can then be designed to ameliorate this food production.

Choice of command and trans catchment development.

Most of the catchment of the Hathni river lies in the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh yet the command lies entirely in the Kukshi block of District Dhar-an area comparatively better developed than the Hathni catchment and drained by the rivers Uri and Baghini.

At no point in the Project plan has it been made clear why or how the choice of the use of Hathni waters for the development of the Kukshi block has been made or why there is only a left bank canal.  The waters of Hathni and Uri-Baghini first need to be used for their respective basin development before any cross use takes place.       

WHAT WILL WE PUT OUR MONEY INTO?  THE COST EFFECTIVENESS OF JOBAT PROJECT.

The Jobat Project was originally scheduled to cost Rs.26.91 crores.  By February 1997, the project proposal submitted tot he NABARD reassesses the Project  cost as Rs. 96.92 crores.  The total revised cost at 1998 CSR has become Rs.110.45 crores.  Over the years, no doubt, the figure will escalate even further.

One reason for the escalation is that the Project has been worked in fits and starts, as and when funds have become available.  This is a major reason that militates against the choice of all big projects—the unavailability of timely finance on a sufficiently large scale and the time duration required for completion makes the actual completion of the Project and the deliver of benefits completely unreliable.  Meanwhile, the costs continue to go up making the Project steadily unviable.

Real per unit cost is dependent on actual (not projected) costs of the Project until completion, as well as actual benefits garnered_( area under irrigation etc.).  Thus, if we see the actual performance of the big irrigation projects in the Narmada Valley for the 3 years 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1995-96,  we find that the average actual irrigation as a percentage of planned annual irrigation ranges from 4.8% in Bargi to 16.44% in Matiari and 18.21 in Sukhta to the very best scenarios of 53.8% utilisation in Barna and 54.05% in Tawa.

So the best utilisation till now in the Narmada Projects is around 54%-half of the expected utilisation.

This raises many questions about the reality of benefit projections.  Once we have stopped blaming the poor farmer for under developed  practices and a reluctance to use the reservoir waters, we will have to squarely address the issue as to why when it is know that Western MP needs most of its irrigation requirements for rabi crops, except in conditions of drought, benefit planning of big Projects, include rabi and kharif requirements in an undifferentiated manner thereby falsely inflating the Project benefits.

A realistic assessment of benefits is necessary because of their simple universal relationship with unit costs.   If benefits halve, unit costs double.

The Jobat Project intends to serve 9848 ha CCA with a proposed annual irrigation of 12,507 ha.  At 1996 figures the projects costs 96.92 crores.  Today, it is around 110 crores.  In the unlikely case of the Project actually irrigating 10,000 odd hectares as anticipated, the cost will be Rs.1 lakh/ha.

Yet the reality of the Jobat Command (existing irrigation as well as the non-irrigable nature of many lands), read in conjunction with the record of the Narmada Projects till now could lower the actual use figures to 400-500 hcts, if not even less.  That is cost of creation of irrigation per hectare (110 crores divided by 9848 ha), goes up to 2-2.5 lakhs per hectare if not even more.

It is clear that neither the nation, nor MP, nor the Narmada Valley can afford such expensive irrigation.  Especially when less destructive, more cost-effective alternatives exist.

ALTERNATIVES

All previous discussions have taken us inexorably towards a choice and creation of alternatives.

On grounds of lack of rehabilitation, non-fulfillment of environmental measures, actual status of irrigation in command, and non-irrigable nature of much of the lands in the command, the construction of the Jobat Project can neither be justified, and seems unnecessary.

However, development of the command is still necessary.  How is  this to be done?  It is clear that the alternative framework will base itself on how water and land in the command is being used now.  Then we go beyond.

The thrust areas are clear.

Firstly, we urgently and on a priority basis need to do a participatory, public audit of tanks in the command.  The community and the government officials get together to look at why the tank is not functioning.  Does it need de silting?  Deepening? Repairing?  Raising of the sides?  Construction and repair of the canals?  Restoration of the command?

Is it a seasonal problem of evaporation leading to insufficient waters for Rabi (which may require technical solutions like bifurcated tanks)?

A tank-by-tank audit will generate strategies for each tank, that is under some generic problem with tanks in this area is not identified.  The number of tanks in the command is sufficiently small to make this Audit a real possibility.

Specific problems with each tank will then require its own solution and investments.

The irrigation potential locked up in the unused tanks here is enormous-a good 3000 ha.  Yet investments required for unlocking it  and making them usable is little by comparison.  Even if expenses of repair/restoration per tank was to be a whopping Rs.10 lakhs each, the total investment would be less than 2% of the investment on the Jobat Project.

Secondly, we need to look at ground water and wells in this area.  Assess actual utilisation and yet undeveloped potential.  Undeveloped potential can then be made the basis of further development. Yet, the stage of substantial development of wells and ground water resources seems to indicate over utilisation of ground water resources and questions different from further use of ground water resources.

These questions are: how do we make wells/tube wells and ground water utilisation in this area sustainable through recharge?  And how do we ensure access of even the resource poor to ground water that is a common property resource?

The second question will lead us towards creation of community held or public ground water extraction structures along with regulatory regimes for private ground water development.  This may include progressively steep electricity tariffs to regulate excess water using cropping patterns and simple waste.

Thirdly, the use of river streams, nallahs and water courses running through the area for lift irrigation.  Existing and growing private initiatives in lift irrigation needs to be supported and community, public or sponsored schemes for the resource poor need to be implemented.             

Fourthly, and this is the most crucial is the development of the watershed.  Only this can perennialise and make sustainable ground water structures, tanks and streams and nallahs and effectively address the questions of recharge and sustainability.

Moreover, the large part of the command are not amenable to irrigation can be developed through watershed approach by conserving moisture and soil in-situ and making the land available and ready for rabi crop without the need for extraneous irrigation.

For all the above, development of institutional structures like watershed user groups need to be developed in order to address the question of water resources development on a community basis.

It is clear to us that these measures, if implemented are likely to be more successful as well as cost-effective in effecting irrigation, agricultural production, development of the command and the conservation and full utilisation of the valuable soil and water resources of the area, in comparison with the Jobat Project.

It is a lso clear to us that in the present changed circumstances where additional irrigation required to be generated has decreased by an order of magnitude, the Jobat Project is NOT REQUIRED. 

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