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No shortage of drinking water from Narmada: Gujarat govt

IANS | Gandhinagar |

The Gujarat government on Monday assured that there won’t be any shortage of drinking water in the state this summer due to the Narmada crisis as the state is mostly dependent on the river for their water needs.

“The monsoons in upper catchment regions of Madhya Pradesh had been poor resulting in the lowered inflow of water into the Narmada river. This has forced us to earlier announce that we would not be able to give water for irrigation to summer crops from March 15,” state Chief Secretary J.N. Singh told the media.

Sardar Sarovar Dam, the multi-purpose mega irrigation project which has been touted as the ‘Lifeline of Gujarat’, was marketed as panacea of all water problems in the state, including drinking water across large parts of Gujarat and irrigate swathes of land.

The four beneficiary states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are allotted 28 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the dam – MP has been allotted 18.25 MAF, Rajasthan 0.5 MAF, Maharashtra 0.25 MAF and Gujarat 9.34 MAF, according to the mechanism for distribution.

Of Gujarat’s 9.34 MAF, 1.06 MAF water is for non-irrigation purpose (0.86 MAF for drinking and 0.2 MAF for industry) and 7.94 MAF for agriculture. Over the years, the need for drinking water has grown to 1.29 MAF.

“The Narmada Control Authority in its last meeting fixed the quota of water for Gujarat at 4.71 MAF, or almost half. Meeting drinking water needs is our priority and the supply to industry will also be lowered to 0.06 MAF,” the Chief Secretary said.

About a fortnight ago, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd issued a circular that it would not be able to provide any water for summer crops to the farmers in the state. Gujarat has about 1.5 million hectares of land under summer cultivation, with farmers sowing crops as millets, pulses, lentils, groundnut, paddy and sesame.

The Chief Secretary also appealed to farmers to not steal waters from the network of canals. Across the 50,700 km canal network of the project, a significant number of farmers are said to be drawing water from the canal using pipes, mostly illegal, to irrigate their crops. “Through the media, I appeal to farmers not to get involved with such activity,” Singh said.

Attacking the BJP government over the situation, Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani accused it of “wasting away the precious Narmada waters in extravagant shows, in the riverfront, in filling Aji dam which was fruitless as dam overflowed in heavy rains”.

“In the coming days, we will be questioning the government on these issues,” he said.