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Canal work at snail’s pace,Modi govt dreams of Sardar Sarovar’s new height

Since the launch of the project in 1982,only 40 per cent of the total nearly 75,000-km long canal networking work is done.

Written by Hiral Dave | Gandhinagar | Published: April 25, 2013 4:07:03 am

Chief Minister Narendra Modi may have raised the pitch in blaming the central government about “delaying” Sardar Sarovar project clearances to raise the height of the dam and its holding capacity,but the state government itself has moved at snail’s pace in laying the canal network,which is equally important to achieve full potential of the project.

Since the launch of the project in 1982,only 40 per cent of the total nearly 75,000-km long canal networking work is done. So if lower height of the dam poses a risk of losing a huge amount of water to wastage by overflowing,the absence of branch canals despite water availability in the dam at present,leaves huge parts of the state reeling under a water crisis.

From August 7,2012,when,following deficient rains Saurshtra-Kutch region and north Gujarat dams,had hit rock bottom,the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river at Kevadia colony was overflowing.

When these regions are now facing crop failure,the BJP under Mods leadership has launched a campaign against the Centre for delaying installation work of 30 spillway gates on Sardar Sarovar project,which will take height of this dam covering four major states – Gujarat,Madhya Pradesh,Maharashtra and Rajasthan – to 138.62 metres from 121.92 and increase water-holding capacity by 74 per cent,from 1.27 million acre feet to 4.75,and help irrigate parched areas in Gujarat.

When final action report on rehabilitation of displaced families by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh states have been cleared by Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group of Narmada Control Authority (NCA) a year ago,Maharashtra submitted it only in January.

A Resettlement and Rehabilitation official told The Indian Express that group is yet to review the Maharashtra report. Modi,time and again,in his public speeches maintained that review committee of NCA should deal with Maharashtra report fast and give nod to raise dam height. With NCA sub-committee of environment having given its green signal in 2010 itself,a nod from Resettlement and Rehabilitation is the only thing pending to take dam height to its maximum level.

At the same time,however,the fact is that in absence of a canal network,it cannot achieve its target of irrigating 19.92 hectare of agricultural land. So even if dam height was raised to its maximum level by last August when it was overflowing for almost two months,the government would have not been in position to avoid scarcity situation in districts of Saurashtra and Kutch,north Gujarat and central Gujarat.

Modi during BJP foundation day ceremony in Ahmedabad on April 6 had threatened that “state will not keep patience now with Centre over dam height issue”. The BJP has also launched an agitation from taluka level demanding to raise the dam’s height.

So far only 40 per cent of total 26,568 km canal networking work has been done.

Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL),a state government undertaking,completed 121.92 metre dam construction in 2006,which is 96 per cent of its total concrete structure. And since then,in absence of a go ahead from NCA,construction work at dam site in Kevadia Colony has come to a standstill.

On the other hand,while Narmada Main Canal work to its full length of 458 km,from Kevadia to Rajasthan,is done,the pending branch canals,sub-canals and distributaries and minor canals are undermining potential of the project. It is these distributaries and minor canals that take water to farms from main canals.

According to SSNNL records of January 31,till December 2012 only 33 per cent of total 18,413 km distributaries construction work was completed. For sub-canals,44 per cent of 5,11 km work was done.

Similarly,of 2,585 km networking of total 38 branch canals,81 per cent work was over. Very little has been done for minor canals. In total,length of minor canals is 48,058 km and so far only 10,168 km has been covered. Recently,the government has formed new policy of public-private partnership to complete rest of 38,000 long minor canals network.

Of proposed 19.72 lakh hectare irrigation command area,so far 6.02 lakh hectare is being covered and work to cover another 9.80 lakh hectare is under progress and so by end of June,the government has set target to cover another 8.5 lakh hectare.

An SSNNL top official said,“The gate installation work will take more than a year. For the same,the state has been urging NCA to give go ahead as change will not be affected until all 30 gates get installed.”

When contacted minister Nitin Patel said,“Main canal work is done and of total 38,work of 35 sub-canals is over. It is just distributaries and minor canals work that is to be carried out.” “We have adopted PPP model for remaining work. The government is aiming to complete the work by 2014.”

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