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 “no water” 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, “Already, massive preparations are on in Madhya Pradesh to provide as much Narmada water to the state’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.”
Suggesting that the BJP rulers in Madhya Pradesh are taking “no chances”, especially after anger sweeping the state’s rural areas following the Mandsaur incident in June last year, in which five farmers were killed in police firing, the source said, “At 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 state’s farmer could use them for irrigation.”
The official explanation to stop Narmada water to farmers after March 15 is “low reservoir levels”. A state government statement said, the water storage in the Narmada dam has “dropped” by 45 per cent, the lowest in 15 years due to “less rainfall” witnessed in Madhya Pradesh last monsoon.
The official communique, quoting SSNNL, appealed farmers to “skip” 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 — 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 “just about 4.71 million acre feet (MAF)”, as against the “planned” nine MAF.
Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is going ahead with announcing schemes to Narmada provide water to irrigate the state’s fields. In his latest announcement, he declared the state’s irrigation area would be “increased to 60 lakh hectare”.
Addressing farmers at Antodaya Mela during his Vikas Yatra at Nasrullahganj of Sehore district, he said, Narmada has been “linked with Kshipra to increase irrigation area”, adding, arrangements were being made to “ensure to supply water to the agriculture fields of the farmers.”
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. “They 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 them”, he told Counterview, quoting Narmada engineers.
Quoting Gujarat’s water resources adviser BN Navalawala, Rabari’s letter to Rupani says, the official decision to supply 0.20 MAF for supply to industry was violated, even in 2014. “Navalawala stated in one of his speeches that the SSNNL was providing 0.25 MAF to industry in 2014”, it adds.
“Today 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 industry”, 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.