Narmada water scarcity in Gujarat to be "permanent feature", Madhya Pradesh has "no water" to spare for SAUNI

Modi off seaplane in Narmada-filled Sabarmati river, Ahmedabad
By Rajiv Shah
Top sources in the Gujarat government have confided to Counterview that scarcity of water flowing from Narmada dam is going to be a "permanent feature". Pointing out that this has been "internally agreed upon" at the highest level, a senior official, refusing to be named, said, if till recently Gujarat was at ease, and was using Narmada waters "indiscriminately", as there were no dams in Madhya Pradesh, "things have changed."
In all, said this official, the Narmada Valley development entailed construction of 30 large and 135 medium-sized dams in Madhya Pradesh. Its Indira Sagar dam, which has the live capacity of 7.9 Million Acre Feet (MAF), as against Gujarat's Sardar Sarovar dam's 4.75 MAF, is the largest reservoir in India, followed by Nagarjuna Sagar between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Commissioned in May 2005, regulated releases from this project is supposed to provide 8.12 MAF of water to the Sardar Sarovar dam. As per the original award apportioning water under the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) award, Madhya Pradesh is to to keep 18.25 MAF of water, almost double that of Gujarat.
This year, the Gujarat government has claimed "severe scarcity" of water flowing into the Sardar Sarovar dam, allegedly because of poor rainfall in the catchment area, asking farmers to tighten their belt and not go in for irritating their fields in the Narmada command area. All of Narmada waters have been reserved for drinking supply.
Indira Sagar dam reservoir
With water levels almost reaching 110 metres, the height at which the canals are to draw water, "dead" Narmada waters are already being drawn from what is called Integrated Bypass Tunnel (IBPT), constructed at the rock bottom of the Sardar Sarovar dam way back in 1999 to meet water scarcity.
The scarcity claim, ironically, has come despite the fact that a year earlier, when the dam's height was 121.92 metres, no such hue and cry was raised. After the completion of the 138.64 metres dam last year, water levels reached 131 metres in early October 2017, eight metres more than what they were post-monsoon in 2016.
Farmers' organizations, especially the non-political Khedut Samaj - Gujarat (KSG), have been seeking answers from the Gujarat government as to where have most of the waters gone after October 2017, as farmers did not need them in the Narmada command area because of good rainfall in monsoon 2017.
While the state government has refused to reply, despite several pleas, KSG general secretary Sagar Rabari alleges, these waters were "wasted away" to showcase the "success" of the Narmada project during the December 2017 assembly elections.
Waters were released from Madhya Pradesh dams to fill up Gujarat's Sardar Sarovar dam on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday bash on September 17, 2017, and later, over the next two months, they were sent, via huge pipelines, to fill up other water bodies across Gujarat, especially Saurashtra, for similar electoral "celebrations".
Water flowing in a Saurashtra reservoir under SAUNI project
The last one was Modi don't controversially using a seaplane from Sabarmati in Ahmedabad, filled to the brim with Narmada waters, to Dharoi dam in North Gujarat on December 12, 2017, the day on which electoral campaign ended in Gujarat.
The official revealed that, ahead of the 2012 assembly elections, Modi, then Gujarat chief minister, had sought the support of Gujarat and Central officials to similarly release water from the Sardar Sarovar dam, but was refused. "No water from the dam can be released without Central body Narmada Control Authority (NCA) nod. Even Gujarat officials said the release was not possible, as farmers would need water during winter.
"Times have changed", the official said. "At that time, NCA was not under Modi's control, but now it is."
The official further said, "But to believe that Madhya Pradesh would always allow it's dams to be emptied to help Gujarat's electoral aims as it happened late last year is like living in a fool's paradise. It has built it's dams, and, with farmers' pressure for more Narmada water growing, it would increasingly want to expand its Narmada command area."
According to this official, as the release of water is now directly dependent on Madhya Pradesh dams, there may be refusals to supply water to Gujarat, leading to inter-state disputes with major political fallouts.
Against this backdrop, said the official, the Gujarat government's Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) project, officially floated in 2013-14, launched to divert one MAF of "excess over flowing flood water of Narmada" looks a complete waste of money. Under SAUNI, "Excess over flowing flood water of Narmada will be distributed to 115 reservoirs of eleven districts of Saurashtra through total 1126 km long four link pipelines benefitting 10,22,589 acres."
While the project is under implementation, and the first of the four phases is already complete, the official said, "There is going to be no excess water. On the contrary, waters would be scarce, and nearly all Narmada officials and engineers know it, yet are implementing the project under political pressure. Considering its huge cost, Rs 18,000 crore, it's a matter of investigation as to why the scheme was launched."

Comments

Uma Sheth said…
We will never be able to unite as a country if politicians use water, language, religion, and cast as a means of inciting squabbles and riots between states and communities.
Anil Patel, Arch Vahini said…
👆👆 This is superficial half understood analysis of water availability in the SSP.
More in the nature of scare mongering and rumour mongering. It squarely flies in the face of the Narmada Dispute Tribunal Award which is binding on all parties. It was a different story in the 80s and 90s when all too powerful Congress ruled MP was able to stall and block the SSP construction. This piece is misinformed that is for sure.
Counterview said…
Why not send your analysis/rejoinder? Will happily take it in Counterview.
Anil Patel, Arch Vahini said…
Thanks for your reply. As you probably know I was deeply involved in the SSP controversy in the late 80s and 90s.
NWDT Award is the key document to understand how water among three states was distributed during various water availability years. The situation discussed in the blog shows that the author is quite ignorant about detailed calculations and contingencies discussed at length in the Award.
These issues were debated in considerable details by the opponents of the Project, one of the most important being Morse Commision. At various points in time I have discussed this and other opposite positions. The present author of the blog is unfortunately unaware of these debates and more partinently the NWDT Award.
I would have liked to respond to this one but I have no time nor inclination to go on arguing with such half informed critiques.
I have wasted enough of my time and energy on such nay sayers and they seem to spring to life with amazing regularity.
I am sorry if I have not replied to your satisfaction.
Counterview said…
We have merely reflected what govt has been internally thinking post Indira Sagar dam and other dams. Please read the story. It is statement of internal govt thinking, as told by a senior IAS officer involved in Narmada... You can read our blog for more info https://www.counterview.in/2018/03/official-data-of-narmada-water.html
Anil Patel, Arch Vahini said…
I re-read the blog above. It is full of half truths, concoctions and appalling ignorance of the hydrodynamic of Narmada valley, Again the shallow knowledge of the NWDT Award is all over. If it is really true that one officer 'reavealed' the 'story' I am both amazed and a little disappointed that the Narmada project officers remain as complacent and ignorant about the critical provisions of the NWDT Award and its learned contents as they were 30 years ago! The things remain the same. The invariant of the history remains that.
Sorry if I am some what critical of your source/s. Thanks again.
Counterview said…
Thanks for your frank views. Do you think NWDT award remains sacrosanct today? Or none seems to care?
Anil Patel, Arch Vahini said…
Question of its sacrosanctity is not the point. If I understand right and memory is serving me right in the Final order there is a provision that if all the three states agree to make changes they can do so save three or more (?) Parameters of the Award. I am extremely reluctant to rely on my deceptive memory but the Final Order could be consulted and point cleared.
Not carting for the Award is not the issue in my opinion.
Lets get the authentic version of changes made if any, and let a competent authority check with Final Order if the alleged changes ( if they have been made) are in harmony with the relevant part of the Order.
Sanjay Makwana said…
The distribution and availability of water for the state of Gujarat should be reviewed considering the new scinario ,before expending gigantic amount of public money in sauni and other such schemes of govt. Of Gujarat....