With monsoon being delayed in Gujarat, the state government has stopped releasing water for irrigation since mid-June. To add to its attempts to thwart attempts of water pilferage, the Rajkot circle of the irrigation department deployed armed police at five of its 43 major dams that are the key sources of drinking water.
The Rajkot collector had issued orders to stop release of water to farmers from Bhadar, which is the largest dam in Saurashtra, and a few other dams in the third week of June to ensure that there is sufficient water for drinking.
Local irrigation officers had sought police presence near the waters of Bhadar, Moj, Venu -II, Aji-III and Fofal dams to foil bids of water pilferage. Irrigation officers say the request was forwarded to the state home department, which in response, deployed state reserve police personnel.
For almost a month now, eight SRP constables are patrolling the waters of Bhadar dam near Lilakha village in Godal taluka, officers said. An equal number of SRP jawans have been deployed at dam sites of Moj, Venu-II, Aji-III and Fofal. “These dams are major drinking water sources of all major towns of Rajkot. Given the delay in arrival of monsoon, conserving water became our top priority. We sought deployment of police as a precaution to prevent water pilferage,” Ramesh Pipaliya, superintending engineer of Rajkot irrigation circle, said.
Bhadar is a major drinking water source for Rajkot city, Gondal and Jetpur towns and a number of group drinking water projects for nearby villages. Similarly, Moj and Venu-II supply water to Upleta town, while Fofal meets drinking water needs of Dhoraji and Jam Kandorana towns. Aji-III is located near Padadhari town and is an irrigation project. “Jamnagar Municipal Corporation requested us to keep water reserved for drinking needs of Jamnagar city. So we deployed police there,” Pipalia said.
The engineer said there was 1,250 million cu ft water in Bhadar as of July 10 and that the stock was sufficient to meet drinking water needs of Rajkot, Jetpur and Gondal till February. Similarly, water stock in Moj, Venu-II and Fofal is sufficient to last till January, March and February respectively.
“No case of pilferage has come to light since the deployment. However, the constables would continue to patrol the dam sites till the area gets good rainfall,” Pipalia added.
Incidentally, 12 farmers were booked on Sunday for drawing water from Vartu dam near Bhanvad in Devbhoomi Dwarka district for irrigation, thereby violating a district magistrate notification, banning use of dam water for irrigation.
The state government has also raised special force to patrol Narmada canal that supplies drinking water to the arid region of Saurashtra.