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Dams await Narmada waters, 6 months after PM launched SAUNI pipeline phase

Six months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated phase-II of link-I canal of SAUNI, which connects the Sardar Sarovar dam to these dams, yet the work remains incomplete.

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya | Rajkot |
September 25, 2019 12:47:39 am
Dams await Narmada waters, 6 months after PM launched SAUNI pipeline phase The amount of floodwater being discharged from the Sardar Sarovar dam in a day to manage the water level in the reservoir can fill up dozens of dams in Saurashtra, but dams such as Sani, Ghee, Gadhaki and Vijarkhi served by link-I of the project have not got Narmada waters this monsoon, as the work to set up a pumping station has been delayed. (Source: File)

WHILE THE Narmada dam has been overflowing for a week, some dams in Saurashtra have storage of less than a third of their capacity, as the irrigation department has not been able to pump Narmada waters into them. Six months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated phase-II of link-I canal of SAUNI, which connects the Sardar Sarovar dam to these dams, yet the work remains incomplete.

As of Tuesday morning, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) was releasing 59,755 cusec (cubic feet per second) or around 5,158 million cubic feet (mcft) per day, water from Sardar Sarovar, popularly known as Narmada dam. The amount of floodwater being discharged from the Narmada dam in a day to manage the water level in the reservoir can fill up dozens of dams in Saurashtra.

On the other hand, Sani and Ghee dams in Devbhumi Dwarka district in Saurashtra are only 25.66 per cent and 32 per cent full respectively. As of Tuesday, gross storage in these two major reservoirs was 353 mcft and 124 mcft against their designed capacity of 1,378 mcft and 387 mcft respectively. Gadhaki dam in the same district was also only 86 per cent full, with gross storage of 224 mcft against its capacity of 330 mcft.

Vrajmi dam in Jamnagar was also only 34.43 per cent full. Bhimdad and Malpara dams in Botad district were 60.35 per cent and 62.32 per cent full respectively. Bhavnagar district’s Shetrunji, the largest reservoir of Saurashtra region was 69 per cent full, with gross storage of 7,528 mcft against its designed gross storage capacity of 10,900. Ranghola, also in Bhavnagar was also only 62 per cent full with the reservoir having received 810 mcft water against its capacity of 1,300 mcft.

Although Saurashtra region, comprising 11 districts, faced a drought last year, this monsoon it received 124.71 per cent rainfall against its long-term average. However, officers of the irrigation department say the catchment areas of some dams have not received sufficient rainfall and therefore the reservoirs have low storage even as the monsoon is in its last stretch.

With the aim of filling up 115 dams of water-starved Saurashtra by diverting Narmada floodwaters, which otherwise drain into the Gulf of Khambhat, Modi had announced the SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojana) project in 2012 when he was chief minister of Gujarat. The Rs 16,000 crore project aims to divert 43,560 mcft (one million acre feet) Narmada floodwaters into Saurashtra Branch Canal of Narmada project and then pump it into the 115 dams by a 1,200-km long network of giant pipelines to augment availability of drinking and irrigation water in the region.

After the Narmada dam received very good inflow, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had announced on August 20 that dams of Saurashtra will be filled up with Narmada waters.

While the irrigation department has managed to fill up dams such as Aji, Nyari, Veri, Bhadar (the second largest reservoir of Saurashtra), Ranjitsagar, Krushnasagar, Kaniyad, Goma, Ankadiya, Kalubhar, Hanol and others with Narmada waters by operating link-II, III and IV of SAUNI, dams such as Sani, Ghee, Gadhaki and Vijarkhi served by link-I of the project have not got Narmada waters this monsoon. This despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi having formally inaugurated phase-II of link-I on March 4 this year at a ceremony organised in Jamnagar.

The SAUNI project is divided into four pipeline links. Link-I offtakes from Machhu-II dam in Morbi district and tails into Sani river upstream and to Sani dam in Kalyanpur taluka of Devbhumi Dwarka district. Machhu-II dam is fed by Narmada project’s Morbi branch canal, which in turn offtakes from Dholidhaja Dam. The Dholidhaja dam is landing point of Saurashtra Branch canal of Narmada project. Link-II offtakes from Limdi Bhogavo-II dam near Vadod village in Wadhwan taluka of Surendranagar and tails into Raydi dam in Khambha taluka in Amreli district. Link-III offtakes from Dholidhaja dam and tails into Venu-I dam in Upleta taluka of Rajkot district. Link-IV also offtakes from Limdi Bhogavo-II and tails into Hiran-II dam in Talala taluka of Junagadh district.

Work on the 57.67 km-long phase-I (from Machhu-II to Aji-III dam) of link-I had begun in February, 2014 and the PM had inaugurated it on August, 30, 2016. The same day he laid the foundation stone of the 122.33 km-long phase-II of this link. This phase-II of link-I begins from Aji-III dam and culminates in Sani river. It entailed laying 85.57 km long parallel pipeline and setting up pumping stations at Aji-III, Und-I, Kankavati, Pipartoda and Gadhaki to directly pump or flow with gravity water into nine dams of Jamnagar and 11 of Devbhumi Dwarka. The project cost was Rs 814.83 crore and it was due to be completed in May this year even though Modi formally inaugurated it in March this year by releasing water into Ranjitsagar dam, a source of drinking water for Jamnagar city.

However, the irrigation department is not able to operate link-I to pump water to Sani and Ghee. “The work of setting up a pumping station at Pipartoda has been delayed due to land acquisition issues. While the matter is still pending before the Gujarat High Court, we are hopeful of completing the work soon,” says Kamlesh Mehta, an executive engineer with Rajkot irrigation (projects) circle of state irrigation department.

Another officer of the irrigation department says that some work of laying the pipeline is also pending. “Around 12 km of pipeline is yet to be laid towards its tail-end. A trench has been dug for around three kilometres of it,” says the officer.

Mehta adds that only a small stretch of pipeline connecting Vijarkhi is to be laid and expressed confidence that Narmada waters will be pumped into that reservoir.

Barring Sani, Ghee, Gadhaki and Vijarkhi, 26 other dams served by link-I pipeline have good storage thanks to good rainfall this year. However, as of Tuesday, storage in 12 dams of Devbhumi Dwarka was 59.73 per cent, the lowest among all the 11 districts of Saurashtra. That is largely due to Sani, Ghee, Singhani and Gadhaki having low storage even as eight other dams in the district were overflowing. Storage in dams in Bhavnagar district is also at 64.13 per cent, state government data shows.

However, link-II, III and IV are operational. The irrigation department pumped 1,028 mcft water into Bhadar by August 20, causing the dam, which has a total capacity of 6,648 mcft, to overflow on Sunday.

Some dams in Botad and Bhavnagar too have overflowed thanks to Narmada waters. “We started pumping Narmada waters into link-II on August 9 and had pumped around 1,000 mcft water into Shetrunji by Monday. Every day, we are pumping around 45 to 50 mcft water into Shetrunji and around five mcft in Bhimdad,” says Shailesh Patel, executive engineer of Bhavnagar irrigation (projects) circle.

Patel said they were operating five out of eight pumps at the pumping station of link-II at Limdi Bhogavo-II dam. “We have already filled up Kalubhar, Hanol, Krushnasagar, Kaniyad and other dams. But due to some technical issue, we are not able to pump water into Malpara. We have also pumped the assigned quota into Ranghola and we have instructions from the top to focus more on filling up Shetrunji,” Patel further said.

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