As the Gujarat government gears up for the launch of Chief Minister Narendra Modis ambitious pet project,Statue of Unity (worlds tallest statue),a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel,on October 31,more than 50,000 km of canal network of Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD),the very site of the statue,is pending.
The government officials and ministers will fan out across India to collect iron pieces from farmers for building the 182-metre statue even as Sardar Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust,headed by Modi,will raise Rs 2,000 crore for the project. But the farmers,even after four decades of
SSD project,remain deprived of Narmada water for irrigation. Recently,Modi,underlining the fact that only 7.17 lakh hectares of the total 18.45 lakh hectares command area of minor canal network is being irrigated,had asked centre to provide the fund to accelerate the project.
According to Sardar Sarovar Nigam Limited (SSNL) records,as of now 37,841.08-long km of sub- minor canal network,which will supply water to farms from main canal,is still pending. The total length of sub-minor canals network runs into 48,058 km. That means so far only 10,216 km of the network is being completed.
The work on minor canals,too,is moving at snails pace. Of the total 18,413 km long network,so far 7,620 km long pipeline have been laid even as work on the remaining 10,792 km is pending. Of the total 5,112 km of sub-branch canals,only 2719.95 km has been completed.
The delay has mostly been caused by lack of fund. The Modi government wants the Centre to give it 90 per cent financial assistance under the Accelerated Irrigation benefit program. In August,Modi wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to consider the Desert Development Program (DDP) as per Drought Prone Area Program (DPAP). He said in the letter dated August 3,Ninety per cent DDP grant will help the state to further proceed with building minor pipeline network,which so far covers command area of 7.19 lakh hectares of the total 18.45 hectares.
Given the speed at which the work on sub-minor and minor canal is going on,it may take another decade to complete the project, said an official from Gujarat irrigation department. In 2011-2012,only 10.42 km work of sub-minor canal was done,followed by 36.60 km in the previous financial year. The work of minor canal,however,gained some acceleration from 2012-2013 which saw the network of 1,468 km bring laid,followed by 789 km so far in this financial year.