A well-informed Gujarat government source has told Counterview that a major reason why the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) recently declared there would be â€œno waterâ€ from the multi-purpose irrigation scheme, Sardar Sarovar dam, to Gujarat farmers starting March 15, 2018, is Madhya Pradesh elections, scheduled for this year-end.
The source, refusing to be identified, said, â€œAlready, massive preparations are on in Madhya Pradesh to provide as much Narmada water to the stateâ€™s farmers by storing as much water as possible. The idea is to appease the farmers with Narmada waters in the same way as it was done last year before the elections took place in Gujarat.â€
Suggesting that the BJP rulers in Madhya Pradesh are taking â€œno chancesâ€, especially after anger sweeping the stateâ€™s rural areas following the Mandsaur incident in June last year, in which five farmers were killed in police firing, the source said, â€œAt that time, in view of the Gujarat elections, the whole effort was open the gates of the big dams on Narmada in Madhya Pradesh to allow Narmada water to reach Gujarat to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam, so that as canals were filled up and the stateâ€™s farmer could use them for irrigation.â€
The official explanation to stop Narmada water to farmers after March 15 is â€œlow reservoir levelsâ€. A state government statement said, the water storage in the Narmada dam has â€œdroppedâ€ by 45 per cent, the lowest in 15 years due to â€œless rainfallâ€ witnessed in Madhya Pradesh last monsoon.
The official communique, quoting SSNNL, appealed farmers to â€œskipâ€ sowing of summer crops unless they have alternate sources of irrigation such as bore-wells, as water from Narmada would have to be saved for drinking purposes. Gujarat has about 1.5 million hectares under summer cultivation growing summer crops such as sesame, millets, pulses â€” lentils, groundnut and paddy.
|Kensville golf course|
The decision to curtail water was reportedly taken at the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the inter-state body responsible for discharge of water from Narmada river to the dams in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. Officials said, NCA expects Narmada dam to get â€œjust about 4.71 million acre feet (MAF)â€, as against the â€œplannedâ€ nine MAF.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is going ahead with announcing schemes to Narmada provide water to irrigate the stateâ€™s fields. In his latest announcement, he declared the stateâ€™s irrigation area would be â€œincreased to 60 lakh hectareâ€.
Addressing farmers at Antodaya Mela during his Vikas Yatra at Nasrullahganj of Sehore district, he said, Narmada has been â€œlinked with Kshipra to increase irrigation areaâ€, adding, arrangements were being made to â€œensure to supply water to the agriculture fields of the farmers.â€
Meanwhile, Khedut Samaj (Gujarat) general secretary Sagar Rabari, in a letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, has wondered why the state government has decided to stop waters to farmers. â€œThey have no problems supplying water to Coca Cola, farm houses owned by rich and mighty in the Nal Sarovar area, Kensville and Shantigram golf clubs. There is no mention in their official note on stopping water to themâ€, he told Counterview, quoting Narmada engineers.
Quoting Gujaratâ€™s water resources adviser BN Navalawala, Rabariâ€™s letter to Rupani says, the official decision to supply 0.20 MAF for supply to industry was violated, even in 2014. â€œNavalawala stated in one of his speeches that the SSNNL was providing 0.25 MAF to industry in 2014â€, it adds.
â€œToday we are living in 2018 and many more industrial units have been getting the water which means now much more water than the quota goes to the industryâ€, alleges Rabari, demanding a white paper on how much water is being released from Narmada canal for the Sabarmati River Front in Ahmedabad just to please foreign dignitaries, and how much of it is being given the Kensville and Shantigram golf clubs.