Skip to main content

'Discussed' with Modi, Gujarat Rann Sarovar proposal for Kutch runs into rough weather

Old Surajbari bridge, proposed spot of the dam to "stop" sea water ingress 
By Rajiv Shah
Top Saurashtra industrialist Jaysukhbhai Patel’s by now controversial proposal to convert the 4,900 sq km Little Rann of Kutch area, an eco-sensitive zone – a UNESCO biosphere, world’s only wild ass reserve, and a nesting ground of lesser flamingoes – into a huge sweet water lake, called Rann Sarovar, has suffered a major roadblock. At least three Central agencies have expressed serious doubts about its feasibility.
While Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani is said to be positive about the proposal, which has been opposed by the salt producers in the Little Rann, as it would take away their livelihood, as also by environmentalists, Central agencies, including the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) have raised doubts on it on technical and environmental grounds.
The proposal -- sought to be implemented in two phases -- requires "harvesting" the water of rivers draining into Little Rann of Kutch such as Banas, Sarawati, Rupen, Umai, Chandrabhaga, Phulka, Godra, Kankavati, Brahmni, Macchu and may other minor streams by constructing earthen bunds.
And since the Rann allegedly remains submerged during monsoon and early winter months, so says the proposal, the 1.26 km stretch along the Old Surajbari Bridge could be dammed to prevent sea water ingress to ensure water remains in the Rann for all 12 months. And, the sweet water stored could be used for cultivation in the region, which encompasses 78 villages of 12 talukas of Kutch, Patan, Surendranagar, Rajkot and Jamnagar districts.
Floated more than a year ago after the industrialist, who claimed last year that he “discussed” his “dream project” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, both of whom were reportedly “positive” about it, documents in possession of Counterview show, CWC has particularly objected to the project saying it lacks clarity.
Minutes of an internal meeting under the chairmanship of SK Sibal, chief engineer, design, North-West Unit, CWC show that the top Central body took the view that there are “major shortcomings and/or lack of clarity” in the Rann Sarovar proposal “as regards provision of spillway, hydrology/water availability and sedimentation studies, structural safety, environmental and ecological sensitivity of the area etc.”
The wild ass
According to the minutes, the “proposal is silent on any spillway arrangement that may be required to be made as per proper hydrological studies”, adding, “The proposal speaks about coefficient-based virgin yield only and, as such, actual water availability at project site is not known.”
Then, say the minutes, “There is no mention in the proposal about the potential evaporation loss from the reservoir so created due to low humidity levels in the area”, or “possibility of damaging effect of splashing sea waves on the embankment due to high winds.”
The minutes further say, the project area is a “deltaic region”, hence “huge silt coming from rivers is required to be estimated based on sedimentation studies”, adding, “Arrangements for de-silting/flushing of sediments are not there in the proposal without which life of the project may be considerably reduced due to silting.”
Then, they say, the proposal lacks “details regarding flood water management and sediment/silt management, particularly during monsoon”, as also “modalities of utilization of water”, “measures for conservation of natural habitat of Asiatic Wild Ass, flamingos and other migratory birds during and after the execution of the project.”
Pointing out that this “may be a major cause of concern" for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), the minutes also talk of “post-project employment aspects (i.e. shift from traditional salt production to farming)”, even as the need to examine “the gradual siltation of the reservoir/pond so formed will raise the ground level in the pond area”, which “would lead to increased flooding in upstream area.”
CSIR, commenting on the project, says, it was a “huge techno-economical challenge”, raising four major issues with regard to the proposal. These are: Climatic factors of the area range between “semi-arid and arid”; “relative humidity is about 25%”, hence the area “is ideal for salt production”; it is a “seismically active place”; and the area is a “UNESCO biosphere reserve and nesting ground of lesser flamingo.” 
Seismic map (left) of Rann of Kutch
As for CGWB, it says that the proposed site area has clay and silt “with inherent salinity”, its “ground water level is five to 20 metres below ground level (mbgl) with salinity and with total dissolved solids (TDS) of 2500-10,000 mg/litre”, adding, “In isolated packets ground water level is 40 mbgl and ... TDS 1000-2000 mg/l.”
Continues CGWB, “Hydro-geological setting of that area is of clayey substratum, which will not allow vertical percolation of groundwater”, hence the proposal is “not suitable for recharge of fresh ground water.”
The objections have come after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) sent the proposal by Jaysukhbhai Patel, managing-director of the Ajanta Oreva Group, early this year to the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry, which in turn forwarded it to the CWC for comments.
Meanwhile, CWC, which also discussed the proposal with the industrialist, along with another expert – Dr Anil Kane, former vice chancellor, MS University, Vadodara, who claims to be one of the proponents of the proposed sweet water lake by damming the Gulf of Khambhat, called Kalpasar – is learnt to have decided to play safe, putting all onus for the project on the Gujarat government, saying, water is a “state subject”.
It recommends formation of a state government committee to study the feasibility, consisting of secretary, Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply & Kalpsar Department of the Gujarat government as chairman, with experts from different disciplines to study hydrology, sedimentation, design, environment and coastal protection, and ground water.

Comments

BT said…
A well studied story. Time will tell whether the project is successful or not but the point you raised for livelihood of salt producers as well as the salt workers of this arid area is right because all communities belonging to Koli, Muslims etc.are totally dependent on it. Government must keep in mind for their rehabilitation or any alternatives. You know that my native Bhabhar is not far from this Rann of Kachchh.
Uma said…
A businessman involved in such a project means he is only out to make money. Leaving the decision to the state government means he will win in the long run, spelling the ruin of the area.
Madhu Menon said…
I read the article with lot of interest because i visit Little Rann of Kachchh at least 5-6 times a year and might have introduced a hundred thousand youngsters in to the uniqueness of the place. The project proposed by a business man is just a dream for him but might ened up as a nightmare for thousands of people who are dependent on this ecosystem for their livelihoods. The I'll conceived project also will put hundreds of micro organisms in troble and lakhs of migratory birds disoriented. Thanks for writing an article on otherwise "less important" subject.

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen