By Sagar Rabari*
The Chief Minister (CM) of Gujarat on February 2 advised farmers not to go for the summer crop citing the low levels of water in the Sardar Sarovar dam. Even a little child can make the linkage between less rainfall and hence the low water level in the dam. The CM is constantly bringing the farmers into his rants trying to create the fiction that farmers are responsible for urban areas not getting drinking water in the summer months. However, in fact, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) should have known by mid-September itself that in the official monsoon months (1st July to 31st October) there will be less water released in the dam and that there will be less availability for drinking and irrigation.
If they were unable to get this simple math right then they ought not to draw millions in monthly salaries. And if SSNNL did know that there would be a shortfall for drinking water and irrigation then why did it allow the criminal wastage of Narmada water for the Aji and Narmada dam inaugurations and other election related programmes in September 2017? So along with the question of shortfall of water we raise some related issues as well, viz.:
- The CM and the SSNNL should provide the account of where and how much water was used;
- Whether the water used is as per the Water Usage Manual of the Narmada Control Authority;
- How much water was wasted in the inaugurations by opening the dam gates;
- How much water was wasted during the inauguration in Kutch?
- How much water was poured into the Aji dam in the monsoon months?
- How many people could have been provided drinking water for how many months in that much water?
- How much area could have been irrigated in that amount of water?
Rajasthan has been allotted a mere 0.5 MAF of water by the Narmada Control Authority. However, it has already successfully provided irrigation in 2.46 lakh hectares and drinking water to 45 lakh people. The fact that this is possible proves that the Gujarat government and the SSNNL have grossly mismanaged and criminally wasted this precious resource of the people of Gujarat.
Therefore we are stating that the CM of Gujarat is misleading the people of Gujarat on the issue of drinking water and irrigation. The 8 lakh hectares of irrigated green images seen in the satellite images is not irrigated by the Narmada. Therefore we demand an honest account of the Narmada waters used for irrigation.
City-dwellers facing drinking water shortages in the summer months should remember that the farmers have not used that water. Their water has been swindled from them, used for a totally useless and ulterior motive of getting votes in the Assembly election and photo ops and then ultimately drained off into the sea! Therefore if you want to blame anybody then it should be the CM of Gujarat and the Chairman of the SSNNL, not farmers.
Even with less rainfall Gujarat received a share of 4.71 MAF or 5809.73 MCM of water. Of this, 1307.49 MCM has been allocated for drinking water. Presently the water level in the dam stands at 112.32 ft. Drawing of water will be stopped at 110.64 feet. A mere 1.68 meter of water stock is left, 181 MCM of live storage is left in the dam. Even if farmers are not given water, are we to believe that the cities drank up 1126.49 MCM of water in the months of November, December and January?
It is time that the city dwellers woke up and demanded an account of their stolen waters. The political class used the water as a vote-catching ploy while others won Padmashri for allowing that to happen, all the while blaming farmers for it. We restate that the CM is misleading the people of Gujarat and issuing threats of using SRP. Threats will not work; it is time for accounts to be given.
Therefore, the Gujarat government and the SSNNL need to explain the following to farmers and the city-dwellers:
- Of the 4.71 MAF water, how much has been received and how much has been utilized?
- Of the used water, how much has been used to irrigate the 5 lakh hectares of land, how much for drinking water and how much for industries?
- Whether water drawn from the dam for ‘drinking water’ is utilized for that purpose only and if so would they state it on affidavit?
- Is the SSNNL faithfully adhering to the guidelines of the Narmada Water Usage Manual?
- The Gujarat government is not allowed to use water, without permission, for anything other than what is stated in the Water Usage Manual. So, who permitted the water usage for inaugurations? Make this public to help the public tolerate thirst.
- They talk of shortage; the dam has a live storage of 181 MCM. At least tell us how much water was taken from Madhya Pradesh and how much more is remaining to be taken? Or is it now the turn of Madhya Pradesh electors to be scammed?
The Gujarat government and SSNNL have used the Narmada water for political ends and are hence unable and unwilling to present a clean account. In order to hide their misdeeds and guilt they are portraying farmers and villages as “thieves”, while emotionally blackmailing the city dwellers with the threats of an impending water crisis, all the while portraying themselves as innocent. City dwellers should awaken, demand an account of their drinking water or else make their peace with wastage by politicians and remaining thirsty.
*Secretary, KhedutSamaj – Gujarat