The Gujarat government has decided to stop releasing Narmada water to four districts of Surendranagar, Botad, Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad from Thursday, a month earlier than planned. On January 12, the state government had issued a press release with an advisory to farmers that Narmada water will be available for irrigation till March 15, and not beyond that. However, the latest advertisement advances that period by one month.
In its latest advertisement published in Gujarati newspapers, the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) — a wholly-owned corporation of the Gujarat government — says that it will not be responsible for any loss to farmers due to lack of water in the Narmada canal.
“As per the policy of the SSNNL, Narmada water is not being given for irrigation during summer season…Therefore, it is being made known to all the farmers, cooperatives and general public falling under the command area of Limbdi branch canal that passes through Surendranagar, Ahmedabad, Botad and Bhavnagar districts that from February 15 till the end of summer season, the release of water will be stopped,” the February 9 advertisement stated. The advertisement also asks farmers not to prepare for summer crops with a hope to get water from the SSNNL.
The chairman and managing director of the SSNNL, S S Rathore, could not be contacted.
The latest announcement has angered the farmers who are now demanding compensation.
“Earlier, the government had said that water (from the canal) will be available for irrigation till March 15. And now they have changed their stand and declared that it will not be available from February 15. By doing this, the government is putting the entire winter crop of the farmers in danger as the last couple of rounds of water will not be available. The crop is in maturing stage and if the last two rounds of water is not available then entire crop will be lost. We strongly demand that the government either give water or compensation to farmers,” said prominent farmer leader Sagar Rabari, who is also the secretary of Gujarat Khedut Samaj.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who holds Narmada portfolio, expressed ignorance about the SSNNL advertisement. “The water for irrigation is available till March 15. Show me the advertisement. In which newspaper has it appeared? I do not know about it and will have to get it checked.”
Patel suggested that the advertisement could have been issued, if the canal was under repair.
Gujarat is facing a severe water crisis this year. Instead of its regular share of nine million acre feet water every year, Gujarat can only have 4.71 million acre feet water from the Narmada dam project this year.
The water level at Sardar Sarovar dam has gone down to an alarming low of around 111 metre. State Chief Secretary J N Singh, who visited the Narmada dam on Tuesday to take stock of the water level, had said that the live storage of the dam will last till about the end of February after which, the SSNNL will use the “dead storage water”.
If the level of water goes down below 110 metres, it cannot be channelised into the Narmada canals. Gujarat government has recently got a permission from Narmada Control Authority to use Irrigation Bypass Tunnel (IBPT) to use the dead water of the dam after the water level goes below 110 metres. This will cause loss of hydel power generation, and Gujarat government has agreed to compensate Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.