With the water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam falling to an alarming low, Gujarat government has sought permission of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to utilise the water of the dam through Special Irrigation Bypass Tunnel (IBPT), highly placed sources said on Thursday. The development is unprecedented as IBPT is an option to be pressed when water level in the dam falls to a level when it is no more possible to provide water to the canals through dam. It was used only once in 2000-01.
Sources said if the water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam goes below around 110 metres, then the water cannot be flown into the canals. As on Thursday, the level of water in the Sardar Sarovar dam was marked at 111.64 metres. Therefore, sources said, the Gujarat government moved the proposal to continue to provide water to the project’s command areas, especially in the Saurashtra region. By using the IBPT, water from the dam can be drawn to the canals even if the level of water goes down to 86 metres.
With the NCA’s permission being mandatory before using the IBPT option to channelise water of Narmada, all eyes are now on Friday’s meeting in which Chief Secretary J N Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Narmada) M S Dagur and Secretary (Water Resources) M K Jadav are likely to be present.
The top agenda of the meeting is the Gujarat government’s proposal to utilise dam water through IBPT. The Gujarat government has also proposed to compensate Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh for the loss of hydroelectric power due to its use of water from the dam through IBPT.
Representatives of the four partner states of Sardar Sarovar Narmada project — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — besides other stakeholders, are expected to take a decision on Gujarat government’s proposal at the Friday meeting. The NCA is an apex body, established under the order of Supreme Court, to take decisions on inter-state issues related to the project.
“The Gujarat government has made a demand of getting water from whatever options are available. IBPT is one of the options. And as per the provisions, the state government is ready to pay the compensation amount. And this will be discussed and decided at the NCA’s meeting tomorrow,” said a senior officer.
Also, the Gujarat government has to pay for the loss of power generation due to the use of IBPT.
Under the Sardar Sarovar project, 1,450 MW of hydroelectric power is being generated. Out of it, 250 MW power is being generated through Canal Head Powerhouse (CHP). When IBPT will be pressed into service, the CHP would not be able to generate 250 MW power. This means that Gujarat government would have to pay the compensation to the two other partner states — Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh — who get hydro power from the project.
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), which handles Narmada dam on behalf of the Gujarat government, has already declared that it has limited stock of water available in the dam and, therefore, Narmada water for irrigation would be available only till March 15. The government has also issued advisory to farmers not to start cultivation of summer crops if they do not have alternate source of water available. The SSNNL had stated that Gujarat generally gets nine million acre feet water. However, this year, due to hydrological drought in Narmada basin, Gujarat has received only 4.71 million acre feet water as its share from the project.