Faced with water shortage and numerous complaints of water not reaching farmers in various parts of Gujarat this rabi season, the state government for the first time is implementing rotational water supply (RWS) in the Narmada canal network.
According to government officials, the move, largely focussed on four districts, will not only result in 30 per cent water savings, but will help Narmada water reach the “last farm located at the tail-end of the 60,000 kilometer-long canal network”.
In water supply plan, target is farmer anger in drier areas
Gujarat is implementing Rotational Water Supply (RWS) for the first time this rabi season on the 60,000 km Narmada canal network. RWS will ensure that the 19,000 cusecs of Narmada water being released for irrigation is provided in a staggered manner to the minor and sub-minor canals. Once crops get their first irrigation, water in the canal passing through the region will be stopped for 7-10 days, and will instead be diverted to irrigate crops in neighbouring regions. Officials say RWS will help address complaints from farmers, especially those at the fag end of the network, that Narmada waters do not reach their fields. It is targeted in particular at Saurashtra's Surendranagar and Morbi districts, and North Gujarat's Banaskantha and Patan districts.
“This year, water is limited. Today, the situation is such that groundwater may not be available in certain areas as there was little rainfall during monsoon. So, people are largely dependent on Narmada water. We have started implementing RWS for the first time from November 12 ( the day the government began providing Narmada water for irrigating rabi crop). A fortnight has passed and the results are positive,” said M B Joshi, general manager (technical and coordination) of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), the state government body that manages and Sardar Sarovar dam and the canal networks.
The RWS is a method of equitable water distribution, where outlets of distributory canals are opened and shut as per a pre-determined schedule. This ensures that the right amount of irrigation water reaches the farmer or farm located at the end of a canal network. “The crops do not require continuous irrigation. So, after the first round of irrigation, some of the distributaries emanating from a branch canal can be closed for 7 to 10 days. During this period, water can be diverted to remaining distributaries of the same branch canal. We are trying to implement this rotation of 7 to 10 days, which will ensure equitable distribution of water,” said Joshi.
“The RWS is being followed in all the districts that fall under the Narmada command, but the major focus is on the Surendranagar and Morbi districts of Saurashtra region and Patan and Banaskantha districts of north Gujarat,” Joshi added.
Many parts of the four districts received rainfall less than 250 mm this monsoon.
At present, 22,000 cusecs of Narmada water is being released into the main canal. Of this, 1,500 cusecs is for Rajasthan, an additional 1,500 cusecs is for drinking water purposes in Gujarat, and the remaining 19,000 cusecs is for irrigation.
As on November 26, farmers in Gujarat have sown rabi crop in over 12.36 lakh hectares which is about 32 per cent less as compared to last year. Due to paucity of water, sowing has been slow to pick up this year, with Banaskantha topping the charts with over 3.01 lakh hectares of rabi crop, followed by Ahmedabad — 1.25 lakh hectares — and Patan — 74,700 hectares. Farmers in Morbi and Surendranagar have sown rabi crops in 5,200 hectare and 53,500 hectare respectively.
“Despite the quantum of water released, the maximum complaints received by government about water not reaching their farms are from these four districts. There is a major hue and cry in these areas where rainfall has been very poor this year,” the SSNNL official said.
Apart from complaints from the farmers, The Indian Express had reported about government lodging police complaints at 37 places where people damaged government property to illegally draw water from the Narmada canals. “Lack of water availability has led farmers to damage canal structures at some places this season,” the official added.
Out of the total planned Narmada canal network of 71,748 kilometers, more than 59,878 km have been completed (as on July 2018). This includes the main canal, branch canals, minor and sub-minor canals.