Skip to main content

Narmada project's heavy toll: Canal network breached at 22 spots; shoddy release destroys 450 salt cultivators

A breach in the Narmada canal
By Our Representative
Livelihood of as many as 450 salt-cultivating farmers of the Little Rann of Kutch has been gravely hampered following a “roughshod decision” of Gujarat government officials to release water from Narmada canal --more than its carrying capacity, leading to major breaches -- into Banas river in North Gujarat. Well-informed sources have told Counterview, the the salt cultivating fields got “totally destroyed”, their diesel pumps used for sucking out saline water from underground got “burned-out”, and the temporary shelters they had put up to look after the farms “simply fell apart”, as Narmada waters entered the Little Rann.
Estimating the loss to salt cultivators anywhere between Rs 3 crore to Rs 5 crore, most of it taken as loan, a senior government official said, “One should blame past managers of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), responsible for implementing the Narmada project, for failure to create a network of branch canals and distributaries in the region to help agriculturists off the Little Rann to get water straight into their fields. Had the network been completed, the waters would have gone to the fields instead of running over the Little Rann and harming salt cultivators. Further, officials should have known it well – Banas river ends in the Little Rann. Hence, they should not have released as much water.”
The sources further blamed poor official monitoring in the past while constructing the canals for the latest catastrophe that has befallen the salt cultivators. “What is worse, whatever canal network has been created is so poor that within over a month's time, it breached at 22 spots, allowing waters to easily make way without any restriction for days together, with nobody caring to stop it. Some of the breaches were as wide as 24 feet, such as at at a spot near Tharad town. Another breach was also quite wide – of 14 feet – near Sui village”, the sources pointed out.
Other major breaches in the Narmada canal network reported were – near Dhima and Bhakhri village (November 9), in Sapreda-Rachchela minor canal (November 14), near Khiman Padar village (November 19), in Tharad's Bharol distributary (November 20), Vav-Jodiya distributary (November 25 – the breach took place thrice), and Tharad-Upcha distributary (November 27). This apart, there were at least a dozen other minor breaches, all thanks to “poor quality of work done while lining up the canals”, the sources insisted.
Senior activist of the Agariya Hit Rakshak Manch (AHRM) Harinesh Pandya, who has been working among salt cultivators for nearly a decade, told Counterview that while some of them could make their way out of the Rann area which had turned marshy, there were serious casualties. “In the middle of last month, a pregnant woman tried to come out of the flooded area, and in between got unconscious. She was brought to hospital, where she delivered a baby girl, but she died. The officialdom seems indifferent”, he said.
Pandya said the officials he talked with were “so casual” that they seemed to have little compassion for the salt cultivators. “The general view is that Narmada waters should be released in order to help agricultural fields by allowing farmers to illegally sink diesel pumps to suck out water straight from the canal, as distributaries are incomplete. Waters are siphoned away by putting up pipelines, often more than one km long, to take waters in the fields. The waters are released in such huge quantity to 'help' farmers that it leads to breaches in the canal, on one hand, flooding the Little Rann, on the other”, Pandya said.
In fact, according to Pandya, the locals whom he talked to complained, officials “take a bribe of Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per diesel pump” from farmers in order to allow the waters to be pumped out illegally from the canal. “There is also the view that the the local BJP MLA, Shankar Choudhury, knows that farmers are his votebank, while the salt farmers are not. The joke is – whom will Choudhury help? Nearly 5,000 agriculturists or 500 salt cultivators? After all, salt cultivators are mostly Muslims, and they are not his votebank, hence why should he help them?”, asked the activist.

Comments

TRENDING

US research: 40% of India's casteist Facebook posts are anti-reservation, anti-Dalit

By Rajiv Shah
A recent American civil society research has found that 40% of India's casteist posts on Facebook (FB) have anti-reservation slant. Asserting that the reservation policy in India is similar to affirmative action in the United States, the research study, titled "Facebook India: Towards The Tipping Point of Violence Caste and Religious Hate Speech", says, this type of hate content on FB is mainly directed against Dalits and Adivasis.

Sanjiv Bhatt paying price for deposing on Modi role in Gujarat riots: Wife Shweta

Counterview Desk
Following the Jamnagar sessions court ordering life imprisonment to former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt for his alleged involvement in three decades old custodial death case, his wife Shweta Bhatt has said that he has been sentenced for a “for a crime he did not commit”, even as criticizing the Indian Police Service (IPS) Association, Gujarat, for not standing up for him.

Senior advocates targeted because they took up cases against Amit Shah: Lawyers' NGO

Counterview Desk
The Lawyers Collective (LC), an NGO claiming to promote human rights issues, has expressed surprise at the latest move by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to register an FIR against the Lawyers Collective (LC), its president Anand Grover and unknown office bearers for alleged violation of the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).

How Gujarat govt imposed curbs on livestock export for 'fear' of losing BJP vote share

By RK Misra*
Insidious are the ways authorities function, preaching one thing, practicing quite another. Administrative muscle-flexing to suit political goals was on display when the BJP-led Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat banned the export of livestock days ahead of Eid. Even the Narendra Modi-led government expressed its intent to confirm it countrywide, but stopped short of doing so.

One of the least peaceful countries, India's global peace ranking deteriorates: Report

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report has asserted that India's ranking in the Global Peace Index (GPI) is 141st among 163 countries, deteriorating by four ranks in a year. Ranking 163 countries by providing a score to each, the report, prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), headquartered in Sydney, Australia, has found India to be one of the least peaceful nations in the region.

Demand for Bharat Ratna to Dalai Lama as top RSS leader warns China of 'strong' action

Nava Thakuria*
Dharamshala: Indian supporters for a free Tibet have urged the Government of India to confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour, on the Tibetan spiritual leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, for his “immense contributions” in creating goodwill for India in the last six decades. A declaration, adopted at the 6th All-India Tibet Support Groups’ Conference held on June 15 and 16 in Dharamshala township of Himachal Pradesh, said that the Nobel laureate continues to be a holy ambassador of Indian culture enriched with non-violence, compassion and religious harmony.

Sabarmati 'cleaned up' swimming pool style: Untreated effluents discharged in river

Counterview Desk
In a fresh letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, senior Gujarat environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) have taken strong objection to the recent clean-up drive of the about 11.3 km stretch of Sabarmati riverbed undertaken by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), terming it as “swimming pool type clean-up.” The river’s total length is 371 km.

Jharkhand mob lynching: Adivasis protest police 'inaction', FIR against victims

Counterview Desk
The Jharkhand Janadhikar Manch (JJM), a civil rights network, on Monday sponsored a protest against the police action against the Adivasi victims of the lynching which took on April 10, 2019, in Jurmu village of Dumri block in Gumla district of Jharkhand. The incident led the death of Prakash Lakda, aged 50.

Gujarat govt 'considers' temples, charitable institutions as shops and establishment

By Pankti Jog*
The Gujarat state assembly recently passed a new law which would "govern" the working condition of shops and establishments. One of the most talked about provisions of the Act is, it allow shops and establishments across Gujarat to function 24 hours.

There is no 'separate' Kashmir story, as there is for Afghanistan, Nepal, Tibet, Palestine

By Mohan Guruswamy*
Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of South Asia. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. The name Kashmir derives from the Sanskrit Kashyapmeru. The Greeks knew it as Kaspeiria. Herodotus called it Kaspatyros.