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Row over Guj CM opening water park amid scarcity

Rathin Das | Ahmedabad |

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has sparked off a fresh controversy by inaugurating a water park at a time when Gujarat’s farmers are facing serious water scarcity during the summer sowing season.

Agitating farmers of neighbouring villages, including local leaders of the RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), were detained by the police just before the Chief Minister opened the Rs 1,100 crore water park in Anand district of central Gujarat on Sunday.

This water park was a tourism project among the many MoUs signed during one of the Vibrant Gujarat investors’ meet started during the tenure of the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi and continued thereafter by his successors.

Ironically, it was the Gujarat Government which had informed the farmers earlier this year about the impending crisis of irrigation water due to the low reservoir level at the Narmada Dam. The farmers were urged to forgo sowing during this summer season as it would not be possible to provide water from the Narmada canal network.

Due to the intense heat in the region, water parks are a favourite amusement destination in Gujarat and politician businessmen nexus around these entertainment projects have sparked off controversies in the past as well.

Nearly two decades back, local newspaper reports about people getting strange skin diseases from water parks had their managements rushing to deny the resorts as infection source because, they claimed, the water is never recycled but drained out to nearby fields or rivulets.

The very next year when Gujarat faced a severe drought condition in April 2000, the Keshubhai Patel ministry had succumbed to public criticism about water parks wasting so much of it and ordered their closure.

The same water parks owners’ association had rushed to the Chief Minister to say that the precious fluid is not drained out but recycled after some treatment. The truth, however, remains unknown.

The state Congress has condemned the Chief Minister blessing a project that would waste lakhs of litres of water at a time many areas are facing drinking water shortage.

To silence the critics about wastage of water, Rupani said the state government is mulling a policy about municipalities and corporations using recycled water in the future.