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Sardar Sarovar Project: Claims and Reality

CLAIMS

  • Drinking water for 40 million people
  • Irrigation of 1.8 million hectares of agriculture lands. 1450 MW of electricity
  • Permanent solution to the drinking water scarcity in the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat and two districts of Rajasthan.

REALITY

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

  1. No drinking water supply scheme has been finalised
  2. 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
  3. The needed money has not been included in any existing project expenditure Nor is there any identified source for the needed money
  4. Even according to the sketchy proposals 80% of the drinking water would go to the cities.
  5. 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.

b. Irrigation

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Even of this reduced command area, 50% and 100% in some specific reaches are susceptible to water logging or salination.
  5. 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 water.
  6. 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.

c. Power

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.

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