Thursday, May 18, 2017

Narmada Planning Group rejected Modi's pet SAUNI project in 1987, saying there wasn't "enough water"

Modi's second "inauguration" of SAUNI: August 30, 2016
By Rajiv Shah
The Government of India agency Central Water Commission (CWC) may have denied reports that it has rejected a Gujarat government request for funds for the high-profile Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI) on the ground that there is not enough water to divert Narmada waters to Saurashtra.
However, the fact is, SAUNI’s basic criteria, of sending Narmada’s a whopping 1 million acre feet (MAF) of waters – over and above 9 MAF allocated to Gujarat from Narmada basin by the inter-state Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award – to the parched land of the Saurashtra region was rejected three decades ago as unviable.
Initially announced by Narendra Modi as Gujarat chief minister in September 2012, ahead of the state assembly polls in December that year, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd’s (SSNNL’s) Narmada Planning Group (NPG) first outlined the SAUNI concept in a report titled ‘Planning for Prosperity’ in 1987.
Ironically, Modi re-inaugurated SAUNI's two different phases as Prime Minister last year on August 30 in and then this year on April 16.
Headed by well-known Gujarat-based veteran academic YK Alagh, one of the chapters of the NPG’s report talked of augmenting “extra monsoon water” in Narmada in three different regions – Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat.
It suggested lifting Narmada waters 20 metres high for the transfer to Saurashtra. But it concluded that the reliability of the transfer was “very low.” Hence, it was left for an expert hydrological study to work out the details.
Two top experts from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad and Tata Institute of Social Science, who were employed to do the job, concluded that even if one-fifth of one million acre feet (MAF) of water was transferred to Saurashtra, “its reliability would be less than 20 per cent”.
The hydrological study also pointed towards an interesting phenomenon: When Saurashtra was in need of water, there wasn’t enough rainfall in the Narmada catchment, too. However, when there was enough water in Narmada catchment, it also rained heavily in Saurashtra. Hence the conclusion that it made no sense in transferring water to Saurashtra.
Interestingly, when SAUNI was first “inaugurated” by Modi in 2012, none other than Alagh pointed out, “If any new study is available that would help augment one MAF of water to Saurashtra, the Gujarat government should publish it in public interest.”
Even SSNNL officials were not aware of any feasibility study to transfer “surplus” Narmada water to Saurashtra. No administrative approval for the proposed transfer was taken either. Even the state finance department was not been approached to fund the project.
Further, earlier Madhya Pradesh did not build its irrigation potential, and the Narmada command area was also not fully developed, hence perhaps it was possible to talk about extra water available for transfer 1 MAF to Saurashtra.
But things have changed. Several dams have come up in Madhya Pradesh that leaves no scope for extra water from Narmada for not just Saurashtra but also North Gujarat and Kutch. After all, Narmada command has already become short of water.
Meanwhile, it is not clear if CWC has in its hand an expert feasibility report for SAUNI. In its clarification denying that the project was not feasible, it merely said, feasibility study was a “continuous, consultative process”, passing through various stages.
Gujarat government wants SAUNI to fill up 115 reservoirs in water-scarce Saurashtra with waters of overflowing Narmada. In a letter to CWC, it has sought an extra Rs 6,399 crore – over and above Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the project – from the Centre for this.

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