April 14, 2017 5:47:27 am
Despite a 1,20,000-km water grid, the number of villages in Gujarat getting drinking water through tankers has risen by 160 per cent between 2011 and 2016.
During 2011-12, there were just 427 villages in Gujarat where water tankers provided drinking water. By 2015-16, the number of such villages more than doubled to 1,137, according to the data tabled by the state government in the recently-concluded Budget session of the Assembly.
The maximum number of villages covered by water tankers were in Banaskantha. In this district of north Gujarat, 459 villages were provided with tanker water during 2011-16.
Banaskantha was followed by Bharuch in South Gujarat with 406 villages getting water through tankers. River Narmada passes through this district.
The other districts where sizeable number of villages received drinking water by tankers were Kutch (330 villages), Junagadh (335), Rajkot (302) and Dahod (231). In fact, all the 231 villages in the predominantly tribal district of Dahod were provided water through tankers during 2015-16.
This year too, at the very onset of summer, the Gujarat government has announced that it would be providing drinking water to 102 villages using 72 water tankers. On Thursday, the government announced that it would be providing water tanker services to these 102 villages in districts of Kutch, Surendranagar, Porbandar, Dwarka, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Amreli, Patan and Banaskantha.
The use of water tankers to supply drinking water has always been a political hot potato in Gujarat, which over the years has developed an elaborate water-grid that is largely based on River Narmada. This water grid has a 2,727-km bulk water pipeline managed by the state-run Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL) and an additional 1,20,000 km pipeline for supplying drinking water under the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB).
The implementation of the water supply scheme in Gujarat is based on Narmada canal and executed under two different programmes — Sardar Sarovar Canal Based Project (SSCB) and Sujalam Sufalam Yojana (SSY).
The state has also taken up bulk pipeline packages under Mahi and Narmada bulk water transmission pipeline projects. By the end of October 2016, the work on bulk pipelines of 2,727 km has been completed and commissioned.
“Water tankers are used mostly in special cases and on humanitarian grounds. Most of the villages that are covered with tankers are either located in remote areas or might have reported some technical problem or breakdown regarding water supply,” said Tushar Dholakia, member secretary, (GWSSB), a statutory body set up by the state government for development, regulation and control of drinking water sector in the state.
State government officials said that tankers were usually used as the “last resort” in villages where other sources of underground water were unavailable largely due to salinity ingress. Tankers were also used in places that have difficult geographical terrain (or on a gradient), sources said.
According to the latest edition of Socio-Economic Review (2016-17), at present 12,000 villages are connected to this water grid under the Rural Regional Water Supply Scheme. Apart from this, The Government of Gujarat has formulated, sanctioned and implemented a master plan amounting to Rs 13,990 crore for the Sardar Sarovar Canal-based drinking water supply project covering 9,633 villages and 131 urban centres.
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