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NGO 'demand': Hand over Narmada water distribution in Ahmedabad to private party

Narmada water at Karai being diverted to Sabarmati in Ahmedabad
Counterview Desk
In a surprise move, a senior Gujarat civil society leader has suggested that powers-that-be hand over the distribution of Narmada water, provided to Ahmedabad’s residents by pumping it into Sabarmati river, be handed over to a private party. Insisting that this should be done a public-private partnership (PPP) model, Jatin Sheth, who heads Nagrik Sashaktikaran Manch, a platform for citizen empowerment, believes that this would go a long way to “conserve water”.
Sheth shot into prominence recently by organizing a series of ‘aartis’ in the downstream of Sabarmati in Ahmedabad in order to highlight how the river, praised for providing a “clean” environment to citizens through a 11-km-long riverfront filled up with Narmada water, turns into an effluent flowing stream beyond Vasna barrage. The aartis, which culminated on the World Environment Day as part of the Save Water Campaign, had sought to wake up the citizens that what they are being shown as river is actually a gutter for 100-odd kilometres off Vasna.
As part of his Save Water Campaign, Sheth has now shot a letter to senior officials, including to Parameswaran Iyer, secretary, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Government of India, and JN Singh, Gujarat chief secretary, as also Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vinay Nehra, saying that handing over the distribution of Narmada water to private company, which should charge for its consumption, would help people become aware that water isn’t a free commodity that one should splurge.
The letter, sent soon after the Government of India announced it would provide piped drinking water supply through the “Nal se Jal” (water from the tap) to each house in villages in the next five years, a promise in BJP’s election manifesto, alongside offers a series of suggestions which, says Sheth, require policy changes and implementation for “ensuring safe and adequate water availability for the next generations”.

Text:

We wish you a glorious success in charting out the path so that every household in India receives water from tap . It is probably one of the most challenging and auspicious tasks in Indian history and your success will determine the future and quality of life for at least 100 crore of citizens or even more!
Women would be liberated from the pathetic duty of running around and walking a few kilometers each day to arrange drinking water for the family.
Gujarat is one of the most water stressed states. And so many other states also suffer from severe drinking water shortage due to lack of appropriate policy, implementation, mismanagement etc. We wish to submit our humble views for your kind consideration.
In cities like Ahmedabad, Surat etc. multi–storeyed buildings, residential as well as commercial, are coming up at a very fast pace. All these buildings are permitted to use ground water by commissioning deep bores – depth could be anything. In Ahmedabad, ground water level has gone as low as 200 to 300 meters. This should be stopped. Either Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) or a public-private partnership (PPP) model company should supply Narmada water at a cost so that
  • Groundwater level depletion is avoided
  • Narmada project becomes financially sustainable since Narmada water is minimally utilized 
  • Groundwater is a national asset and it should not be allowed to tap for free 
  • AMC and all civic bodies should install meters on drainage side also so that released sewerage from any building is measured and billed accordingly. Supplying safe drinking water has a cost and similarly managing sewerage is also an expensive activity that costs to the civic government. 
Policies and laws are required to completely discourage reverse bore practice illegally adopted by some of the chemical industries. This can be done if the promoters of such industries are treated as hardcore criminals rather than industrialists and sent behind bars for life time.
Jatin Sheth (middle) performing aarti on Sabarmati banks to highlight effluent discharge
Special courts may be designated to take summary trials for faster justice. Reverse boring is a serious offence not only against the present generation involving lakhs of citizens but also against future generations too.
It is time for the adoption of ultra-filtration/tertiary treatment technologies by civic bodies as well as industries – Gujarat’s 20 rivers are most polluted in the country and the water is dead in these rivers – no living organisms/creatures can be found in this water.
As per new technologies, cost of ultra-filtration has become affordable for chemical industries. It is nearly equal or a bit higher than the cost of drawing ground water from 800-1,000 feet, but is still affordable and worth implementing. The treated water can be recycled by industries themselves.
Like all other advanced countries, discharging untreated sewerage and industrial effluents into any water body must be treated as a serious and heinous offence against society as a whole. The civic bodies must only play the role of regulator transferring the task of sewage treatment plant (STP) to the corporate sector so that they can be held responsible in case of negligence.
This is probably the only solution for rejuvenation of rivers – for any river suffering from severe pollution across the nation – whether it is Ganga or Yamuna or Sabarmati, or any other.
It is unfortunate that lakes, ponds and seasonal rivers are disappearing very fast. This has resulted in water logging with the moderate rain in most cities across the state/country. The Gujarat government is deepening the lakes and ponds under Sujlam Suflam scheme with the announced purpose of increasing water storage capacity.
But, unfortunately, this kills the very purpose of lake or pond as explained by Dr Mansee Bal in her research paper on Ahmedabad lakes. Dr Bal is an international expert on lakes.
There is a difference between desilting/dredging a lake/pond and deepening a pond. The depth for desilting or dredging has to be measured with available instruments designed for the purpose and then the quantum of desilting to be calculated.
It is to be noted that silt does not allow water to percolate and lake/pond remains full with water. But if entire surface of silt is removed, all water in the lake gets percolated into underground leaving no water in the lake/pond!
Lake/pond remains empty and without water. As per law, the water level of the lake is measured every year and if there is no water for consecutive 10 years, the lake is declared as land. Then, the lake converted into land, is sold to the real market operators! The rain water which was finding way to lake is stopped resulting into water logging.
And we all know the huge losses due to water logging – financial, social and human/animal lives and environmental – occurring to the society and nation as a whole. For 10 years, the deepened lake, at least serving the purpose of groundwater recharge, is also killed.
We hope you would find above suggestions positive, useful and important.

Comments

Nandini Oza said…

Ahmedabad is not supposed to get the Narmada water in the first place as per the official binding plan. Besides the downstream of Narmada @ sardar sarovar has been rendered an ecological disaster for beautification of Sabarmati River Front which is hardly a beautiful sight.

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