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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Explained: What is Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project; why does Gehlot want a national tag for it?

While very little work could be started on the project owing to its high costs, ERCP is crucial to ensure water for drinking and irrigation in 13 districts of eastern Rajasthan.

Written by Deep Mukherjee , Edited by Explained Desk | Jaipur |
Updated: March 19, 2021 8:11:02 am
Ever since the Congress government came into power in December 2018, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the ERCP as a national project. (File)

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has been strongly demanding national project status for the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP). Announced during the previous BJP regime in the state, Gehlot’s predecessor Vasundhara Raje had also asked for the same.

While very little work could be started on the project owing to its high costs, ERCP is crucial to ensure water for drinking and irrigation in 13 districts of eastern Rajasthan.

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A look at the project, its cost , benefits and what is CM Gehlot’s demands from the Centre:

What is the Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP)?

The Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project aims to harvest surplus water available during the rainy season in rivers in southern Rajasthan such as Chambal and its tributaries including Kunnu, Parvati, Kalisindh and use this water in south-eastern districts of the state where there is a scarcity of water for drinking and irrigation.

According to the state Water Resources Department, Rajasthan, the largest state of India with a geographical area of 342.52 lakh hectares which amount to 10.4 per cent of the entire country, holds only 1.16 per cent of India’s surface water and 1.72 per cent of groundwater.

Among the state’s water bodies, only the Chambal river basin has surplus water but this water cannot be tapped directly because the area around the Kota barrage is designated as a crocodile sanctuary.

Through the help of diversion structures, intra-basin water transfers, linking channels and construction of pumping main feeder channels, the ERCP aims to create a network of water channels which will cover 23.67 per cent area of Rajasthan along with 41.13 per cent population of the state.

When was the project announced?

In the budget of 2017-18, the then Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in Rajasthan had said that the ERCP will help fulfil the long-term irrigation and drinking water needs of 13 districts-Jhalawar, Baran, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Tonk, Jaipur, Karauli, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dausa and Dholpur. Subsequently, the project was approved by the Central Water Commission in 2017. In her 2017-18 budget speech, Raje had also said that the state government had sent a proposal to the central government to declare ERCP as a project having national importance. Since then, this has remained a consistent demand of subsequent governments in Rajasthan across party lines.

What will be the benefits estimated in the project?

According to the Rajasthan Water Resources Department, ERCP is estimated to create an additional command area of 2 lakh hectares and an area of 4.31 lakh hectare will get irrigation facilities because of this project. The ERCP also intends to improve the groundwater table in rural areas of the state, positively influencing the socio-economic conditions of people from these areas. It also adds special emphasis on the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), hoping that sustainable water sources will enhance and help industries grow in these areas resulting in investment and revenue. There are multiple sub-projects under the ERCP with budgets allocated for each phase.

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What is the present demand by the Ashok Gehlot government?

Ever since the Congress government came into power in December 2018, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the ERCP as a national project. Gehlot has written letters in this regard to Modi and also highlighted this during the Prime Minister’s interaction with Chief Ministers in NITI Aayog meetings.

Gehlot has also said that Prime Minister Modi had said that the project will be declared as a national project during his earlier visits to Rajasthan.

The reason cited by the Chief Minister for wanting the ERCP to be a national project is that its estimated cost is around Rs 40,000 crore, which, he said, it is not possible to be borne by the state government. Gehlot has argued that the central government should provide assistance in the interest of the welfare of the state.

What is the present status of the project?

According to officials from the state water resources department, the work on a project under the ERCP in Kota district has started, the value of which is just a small fraction of the total cost of the project.

“Work on ERCP has been started in Kota district. This bit of the project is worth around Rs 600-650 crore. At present, the state is bearing all the costs. The state wants the Centre to declare this as a national project so that the cost-sharing ratio between the Centre and the state becomes 90:10, with the central government bearing 90 per cent of the cost,” said Ravi Solanki, Chief Engineer, Rajasthan Water Resources Planning Department.

He added that water from Chambal and its tributaries will be used under the project.

“The project will use canals, tunnels and pipes to meet the water requirement of the 13 districts. Once the ERCP is completed, water from the Chambal river and its tributaries can be harvested and stored in dams for 100 days every year. This water can be used throughout the year. The project is estimated to utilise 3,500 million cubic meter (MCM), which is the overall requirement of these 13 districts,” said Solanki.

He added that the project estimated the duration of the project completion in 10 years.

The project was initially proposed to be completed in three phases between 2017 and 2023.

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