THE SAUNI project has passed its first major test with its pipeline network transporting more than 1,500 million cubic feet (mcft) of Narmada waters into Saurashtra region’s largest reservoir Shetrunji this monsoon when the Narmada dam was overflowing.
The Bhavanagar irrigation circle had started lifting water from Limdi Bhogavo-II dam in Wadhwan taluka of Surendranagar district to fill up dams in Botad and Bhavnagar districts through Link-II pipeline canal of (Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI) on August 9. Officials of the irrigation department say that by October 9, they managed to pump 3,000 mcft water and fill up six major dams of the twin districts.
“As per government instruction, we operated Link-II for 60 days and pumped total 3,000 mcft water. It helped us fill Kaniyad, Krishnasagar, Bhimdad and Kalubhar dams in Botad district and Hanol dam in Bhavnagar to their respective capacity while filling Shetrunji and Ranghola dams, also in Bhavnagar district to 80 per cent and 90 per cent respectively,” Shailesh Patel, executive engineer of Bhavnagar irrigation (projects) circle told The Indian Express.
“Of the total 3,000 mcft water that we pumped through Link-II, more than 1,500 mcft was pumped to Shetrunji dam alone. Presently, (as of October 25) the gross storage in Shetrunji is 10,000 mfct and around 20 per cent of it is Narmada waters pumped through the SAUNI pipeline,”
The volume of water Shetrunji received, 1500 mcft, is the largest volume of Narmada waters pumped to a single reservoir through SAUNI pipeline in a single installment.
The irrigation department has cumulatively pumped more water to Aji dam near Rajkot city but that was done over the past two years. This year, the Rajkot irrigation circle pumped 1,028 mcft water into Bhadar dam, which has designed gross storage capacity of 6,648 mcft, between May 8 and August 20 this year.
Shetrunji had storage of only 7,528 mcft as of September 25 even as other major dams of Saurashtra were overflowing. However, continuous pumping of Narmada waters and rains in the last week of September and first half of October helped the storage in the dam rise from 69 per cent to more than 92 per cent. “We had the mandate to fill up Shetrunji dam by 20 per cent and we achieved that,” Patel said, adding that heavy rains in the catchment area helped fill up Shetrunji dam almost to its capacity.
This is the highest amount of storage in Shetrunji dam since 2015. The reservoir is the largest in water-starved Saurashtra region in terms of storage capacity. “The present storage in Shetrunji dam is sufficient for providing four irrigation cycles to winter crops in 35,000 hectares of land that the dam serves,” the executive engineer added.
SAUNI is the ambitious project of the state government to divert one million acre feet (43,560 mcft) of floodwaters of Narmada river, otherwise overflowing from the Narmada dam and eventually draining into the sea, to 115 dams of water-starved Saurashtra region through the existing canal network of Narmada project and by laying around 1200 km-long network of giant pipelines.
The SAUNI project pipelines have been divided into four links. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had inaugurated the second phase of link-II to the public by formally welcoming Narmada waters to Shetrunji dam in March this year. Work on the third phase, which will also be the last, of this link is in progress and is expected to be completed by March 2021.
As Chief Minister in 2012, Narendra Modi announced the SAUNI project with the aim of augmenting availability of irrigation and drinking water in Saurashtra. He laid the foundation stone of the project at an event in 2014 and inaugurated the first phase in August 2016. Besides providing irrigation water, Shetrunji is also a source of drinking water for Bhavnagar city. Similarly, Krishnasagar dam is a source of drinking water for Botad town, the district headquarters of Botad.
As part of link-II of SAUNI project, the irrigation department has laid twin parallel pipelines, each of them 125-km long, from Wadhwan Boghavo-II dam to Shetrunji dam. The link is designed to tail into Raydi dam near Khambha in Amreli district and has a total length 253 km. It will pump Narmada waters to 17 dams of Botad, Bhavnagar and Amreli district and augment irrigation facilities for more than one lakh hectare of land.