The highway, which cuts across Sanand, not only divides farmlands from the industrial clusters on its two sides but also the haves and have-nots of Narmada water. Following the Gujarat government’s decision to ration water from Narmada, farmers are getting water to irrigate their Rabi crops only once every four days. In sharp contrast, over 160 large and small manufacturing units, lying on the other side of the highway that links Viramgam and Ahmedabad, get round-the-clock supply of 8.3 million litres per day (MLD) of Narmada water.
Struggling to irrigate his wheat crop, 56-year-old Hariji Thakor scales down to the base of an almost empty canal, which supplies water from the Narmada Main Canal to Sanand — located about 40 km from Ahmedabad city — and its surrounding areas.
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“We have not received a single drop of water for the last three days. I have to irrigate two bighas of wheat and I am trying to position my diesel pump in such a way that I can draw out whatever little water is left in the canal,” says Hariji, a resident of Sakalpura village who stands in ankle deep stagnant water, part of which is covered in muddy sludge.
“I will be able to run this pump, only for a few minutes. But it will help moisten the soil till the water comes in a day or two,” he says. The desperation in his voice is palpable while he connects the pump to rubber pipes to channelise water, whatever is left, to his farmland located just few metres away from the canal.
In its January 12 notification, the state-run Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) had asked farmers in Gujarat to not sow summer crop as it was not in a position to supply Narmada water beyond March 15. And it’s only last week of January and water have almost disappeared from canals. The diesel pumps installed on top of these canals lie idle.
In the absence of minor and sub-minor canals, most farmers in the region have fixed diesel pumps on top of the branch canal that help them draw water to irrigate their farms. The government has already notified against the “unauthorised” lifting of water from canals, and on Tuesday, the SSNNL served notices to farmers to withdraw pipes and remove pumps within a day or face penalty.
“Last year, this canal was full of water. We had water round-the-clock. This year, water is being rationed since last one month, and we are finding it difficult to irrigate our crops. If water supply continues to be erratic then we will lose our crops,” says 23-year-old Arvind Thakor, a marginal farmer who has sown bajra in a small portion of land alongside the canal in neighbouring Chandrasan village. The village is also home to the country’s first one megawatt canal top solar power project that was commissioned atop the Sanand branch canal in 2012 as an experiment to produce clean energy as well as a mean to conserve water from getting evaporated from the canal.
Everywhere one goes around in the region, farmers complain of that the water supply in the Narmada canal is erratic and too little. “We get water only once in four days. There is no official intimation of this supply. We get to know about the supply only when we wake up in the morning and check the canal. Even on days when water is supplied, the flow stops by 3 pm,” says Ramji Thakor who has sown wheat in two bighas at Chandrasan village, and is trying to get his diesel pump repaired in time for the next inflow of water in the canal.
Small farmers like Virji Thakor have decided not to go sow Rabi crop. “I had planned to sow rice earlier this month. But after knowing that there will be shortage of water, I decided not to go for a second crop,” Virji says. Now, he plans to work as unskilled labour in Bol industrial estate that lies across the state highway and houses several large industrial units like Tata Motors and Ford Motors.
Across the highway, the industrial estate, managed by the state-run Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), has so far remained untouched by the government’s decision to reduce water supply. The state government on January 12 had claimed that they have imposed water cut to the industries, and they will be getting only 0.06 MAF (million acre feet) of Narmada water against an annual allocation of 0.2 MAF.
“After the news spread that the state government has imposed cut on Narmada water being supplied to industries, we got a lot of queries from the industries in Sanand asking about the details. However, we are yet to get an official intimation or a written order from either the state government or the SSNNL to impose the water cut. So we continue to supply 8.3 MLD of water to 163 units to Bol industrial estate,” says a senior official of the GIDC who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
This was corroborated by industrial units like Tata Motors which operate in the same industrial estate. When asked if the company has been notified about a water cut by the GIDC or the state government, a company spokesperson in response to an email query stated, “We have not received any such intimation from any government agency, hence we cannot comment.”
When asked if the proposed cut in the Narmada water supply to industries is yet to be implemented, M B Joshi, General Manager (Technical & Coordination) SSNNL, said: “Due to the water shortage, the idea is to limit the water supply to industries to 0.06 MAF. So, in the coming days, there will be water cuts for industries as well.”
There are three underground tanks that store about 165 lakh litres of Narmada water in this industrial estate located at Sanand. The water from the tanks is then pumped into five overhead tanks that supply water to the manufacturing units located in different parts of the estate. “The industries pay us Rs 70-80 lakh every month for the Narmada water supplied,” said the official, adding that the GIDC charges Rs 29.4 per kilo litres per day from the industries.