Sardar Sarovar Project: Claims and Reality
- Drinking water for 40 million people
- Irrigation of 1.8 million hectares of agriculture lands. 1450 MW of
- Permanent solution to the drinking water scarcity in the Kutch and
Saurashtra regions of Gujarat and two districts of Rajasthan.
The very different real situation with regard to SSP begins with the
fact that the total available water in Narmada is less than what is officially
calculated. The amount of water actually available for use at the dam at
75% dependability is only 22.69 MAF (Million Acre Feet) and not 27.22 MAF
as assumed by the dam builders. This difference amounts to an error of
more than 17%.
Taking different sectors of professed benefits the reality is:
a. Drinking water
- No drinking water supply scheme has been finalised
- The huge amount of money needed (estimated as "several crores")
for these schemes and the enormous investment of electrical energy needed
are more than any figure anybody would like to guess at
- The needed money has not been included in any existing project expenditure
Nor is there any identified source for the needed money
- Even according to the sketchy proposals 80% of the drinking water would
go to the cities.
- No one has estimated how many beneficiaries there would be. But we
know for sure that drinking water is not going to reach remote villages
currently facing acute drinking water scarcity.
Irrigation water is the most attractive promise made by SSP to the perpetually
water starved people of Gujarat and their disillusionment begins from the
fact that there is only 17% less water in the river than estimated.
- The irrigation potential of SSP depends on the upstream storage in
the proposed Narmada Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh. If only adequate water
is stored in the Narmada Sagar during the peak monsoon discharge, even
a part of the planned command area can be given water from SSP. As things
stand now there is no chance of the construction of the Narmada Sagar dam.
Without that water also being available, the anticipated irrigation benefits
from SSP simply will not be achieved.
- The terrainal, soil, climatic and land use patterns in the SSP command
area clearly indicate much lower irrigation efficiency. It is now known
that even the total water available for irrigation could be 23.3 % less
than what has been envisaged.
- Many recent studies suggest that the Sardar Sarovar Project Report
exaggerated the potential command area to make out the project as more
attractive and viable. But in reality the extent of the command area is
44 to 52% less than indicated.
- Even of this reduced command area, 50% and 100% in some specific reaches
are susceptible to water logging or salination.
- It is now sure that whatever irrigation water is available in the canal
will be cornered by the rich sugarcane farmers, big industries and the
thermal plants located near the source of the canals and the distant downstream
dry tracts of Kutch, Saurashtra and Rajasthan will never get a drop of
- At the present estimated cost, for the completion of SSP, i.e. well
above Rs.34,000 crores, the per hectare irrigation cost in the command
area will work out to be more than Rs. 1 1akh. Hence SSP will be the costliest
irrigation project in the whole world. In short as an irrigation project,
SSP will be never viable.
The third major objective of SSP is hydel power generation. The proposed
installed capxity is 1450 MW. But then the guaranteed output will be 439
MW only and this too only in the initial phase before the waters are released
into the irrigation canals. Thereafter it is not even sure to provide 50
MW to the grid. Till the waters from Narmada Sagar flow in, there will
be a 28% reduction in the hydel potential of SSP. Finally to achieve the
stated objectives in irrigation and in drinking water supply far more
electricity would be needed than could be generated from the entire project.