Despite Looming Crisis, Narmada Water Used for Modi’s Guj Campaign

There is a water crisis barrelling towards Gujarat, and the Opposition claims the PM’s election campaign is to blame

6 min read
Despite Looming Crisis, Narmada Water Used for Modi’s Guj Campaign

Gujarat is staring at a water crisis of alarming proportions due to plummeting water levels in the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) on the Narmada river, along with the catchment areas of upstream dams in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh.

Farmer groups and Opposition leaders claim that the government wasted water that was collected after a surplus monsoon on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll campaign. According to sources, government officials were aware that the state would face a water crisis in 2018 but chose to remain silent as elections were around the corner.

Gujarat will get only 4.71 Million Acre Feet (MAF) of water from dams on the Narmada river this year – 52 percent of the sanctioned share of 9 MAF.

The storage in the Sardar Sarovar Dam fell by 45 percent, the lowest in the last 15 years. The state government has repeatedly announced that it will not supply water for irrigation. The entire stock will be reserved for drinking water in Saurashtra and north Gujarat regions.


Assembly Poll Games

PM Modi unveiled the plaque dedicating the Sardar Sarovar Dam project to the nation amidst chanting of vedic hymns by students. 
(Photo Courtesy: Twitter/@PIB_India)
Sources in the irrigation department, under condition of anonymity, said that government authorities were aware that Narmada water would not be available for irrigation. Yet, they say, the state irrigation department filled up reservoirs that fall under Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation (SAUNI) Scheme, months before the Assembly elections.

The sources said that even though the state government was aware of a sharp drop in water inflows in the Narmada dam, it celebrated the Narmada Festival where Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended an event to announce the completion of the dam over the river.

This was again repeated at the Sabarmati Riverfront, where PM Narendra Modi on the last day of poll campaigning in Gujarat flew on a seaplane that had landed at the riverfront after water levels were raised.

Leader of Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly Paresh Dhanani said, “The last monsoon saw excess rain which was stocked in various dams to fight the impending onslaught of the summer. The BJP, however, used the same water to fill up Sabarmati, so that PM Narendra Modi can land his seaplane. Just so the PM could light a diya in Rajkot’s Aji dam, they raised the water level using the water saved from the monsoon.”

Sardar Sarovar had enough water to take care of Gujarat’s water needs. However, the BJP misused the water in the dam for political gains. The dam authorities are not able to provide data on the actual amount of water released from the dam. The water shortage is due to political misuse and not because of scanty rainfall.
Sagar Rabari, General Secretary of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj (Gujarat Farmer’s Society)

The Quint spoke to Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel about the allegations levied against the BJP government over the misuse of water resources, which he categorically denied, adding, "There is no reason to worry about the summer, as there is no shortage of drinking water this summer."


Rationing Water

The state government has not only decided to reduce the water supply for irrigation and industries, but also decided to ration water supply from 15 March 2018 onwards.

Water supply to major cities including Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara among other municipal corporations and municipalities is expected to be cut in the next two weeks’ time.

In a Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday, 31 January 2018, officials presented a six-month-long drinking water supply plan which proposes to curb drinking water supply to all major cities and municipalities to ensure the limited water stock lasts till the monsoon in June.

The Gujarat government has decided to stop releasing Narmada water to four districts of Surendranagar, Botad, Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad from 15 February.

In its latest advertisement published in Gujarati newspapers on 9 February, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) has said that it will not be responsible for any loss to farmers due to lack of water in the Narmada canal. The advertisement also asks farmers not to prepare for summer crops with expectations of getting water from the SSNNL.

The state has also started using the ‘dead water’ of the Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia, about 100 kms from Vadodara, since 20 February, to meet the state’s drinking water requirements, chief secretary JN Singh told PTI on Tuesday, 21 February.

Narmada Canal water is used both for drinking and irrigation.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screengrab)

Singh stated that the move follows a directive by the Narmada Control Authority, which on 9 February allowed the state to use the dam's dead water if the water levels dropped below 110.64 metres. “Now there is no problem as far as drinking water is concerned in the state. The drinking water allocation remains intact and the remaining is for irrigation.”


Ahmedabad Gears Up

Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is working on a plan to avert the crisis and is taking action on several fronts, such as shutting down car wash companies and swimming pools as well as digging new borewells to ensure that the city is not hit too badly.

The corporation will launch a campaign to identify spots where water is not necessary. At least 250 car wash facilities and 16 AMC pools will be shut down. Commercial swimming pools, including ones at clubs and hotels, have also been given directives by the AMC.

Currently, Ahmedabad gets 1,200 MLD water daily – 900 MLD from Narmada, 200 MLD from Raska water treatment plant and 100 MLD from existing borewells. There are 214 borewells that pump 120 MLD water. The corporation gets 30 MLD water from 30 borewells located at water stations. It will build 30 new ones in various areas to gain 40 to 50 MLD water.


Situation in Surat Critical

Water levels in Ukai Dam in Surat have significantly dropped.
(Photo Courtesy: YouTube screengrab)

With the water levels in Ukai dam falling, water scarcity is looming over the diamond city of Surat. South Gujarat has 27 percent less water compared to last year. The local administration has decided to cut water supply across the city for an hour daily. Presently, Suratis only receive water supply for three and a half hours per day.

Surat Municipal Corporation has initiated preparations for the cut in water supply. The plan is to cut down water supply by 250 Million Litres Per Day (MLD). The local administration claims that the city receives 24-hour water supply.

The agricultural department has also been alerted about the cut in water supply. Rajesh Desai, chairman of the committee Surat Municipal Corporation, said, “We have decided to take special measures to avoid water shortage in the coming season. Our plan is to reduce water wastage by 10-20 percent”.

Surat needs 1,200 MLD water everyday. In all 320 million gallons of water has been recalled from the agricultural department.


Vadodara to Drill Tube Wells

The Narmada canal which passes through Vadodara has solar panels placed as a cover to protect the water from evaporation, while generating solar power.
(Photo Courtesy: Sardar Sarovar Nigam Limited)

To deal with a possible water shortage in the city, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) will drill 15 tube wells in various parts of the city. The VMC are positive that other water sources will not dry up, its only concern is about the fate of Narmada water which the civic body procures from a Sardar Sarovar project canal in Khanpur.

As per official figures, the civic body draws around 75 million litres per day (MLD) of water from the Narmada canal, although the city’s requirement is 500 MLD. The remaining water is sourced from other reservoirs around the city.

We will be starting the tender process for borewells soon. We hope the work will be completed in a month’s time and an additional 15 MLD can be added to the water supply of the city. The situation is not very bad, but we are taking necessary steps to meet the shortage if any.
Vinod Rao, Commissioner, Vadodara Municipal Corporation 

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Topics:  Narendra Modi   Jawaharlal Nehru   Rajkot 

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