In a novel attempt to satiate the drinking water requirements of two-thirds of Gujarat’s population, the state government, for the first time, has begun diverting water from Mahisagar river basin to the Narmada main canal, which primarily feeds’state’s drinking water-grid.
Faced with acute shortage of Narmada water, the government has started an inter-basin transfer of water, by “lifting” over 350 cusecs (cubic feet per second) from the Mahi right bank canal (lying in east-west direction) and dumping it into the Narmada main canal, which passes 22 metres above Mahi canal in north-south direction at Padal village of Kheda district, located about 90 km from Ahmedabad district.
“About four crore people in Gujarat or two-thirds of the’state’s population currently get Narmada water. Now, water from Mahisagar river is being used for the first time to feed the Narmada-based drinking water system. This water transfer is taking place by drawing water from Mahi Right Bank Canal using submersible pumps and releasing it into the Narmada Main canal at Padal where both these canal systems intersect each other,” MB Joshi, General Manager (Technical), Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, told The Sunday Express. The new infrastructure costs over Rs 26 crore. This is in addition to an existing system through which excess Narmada water is drained into Mahi river.
“Just like we have a structure to release water from the Narmada main canal into the Sabarmati river, similarly, here too we had built an escape structure to release excess water from the Narmada main canal into the Mahi canal. This year, since it is a distress year for Narmada, we do not have much water in the Narmada main canal. But we have excess water in Mahi and so we have built a new infrastructure at the same spot to lift Mahi water and put it into the Narmada main canal,” Joshi added, referring to the existing two radial gates (which currently lie shut) built on the Narmada main canal that control the flow of excess Narmada water into the Mahi irrigation canal.
Mahi right bank canal that emanates from the Wankbori dam and irrigates the Mahi command area in Kheda and Anand districts is under the control of the water resources department of the state government while the Narmada canal is under the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL).
This round-the-clock transfer of water from the Mahisagar river basin is meant to help supplement the scarce water resources of the 56,000-km-long Narmada canal network that is currently supplying only drinking water to 165 urban centres and over 8,624 villages. Currently, only 800 km of this network contain water which includes 458 kilometers of Narmada main canal. The rest has been shut due to water scarcity.
Compared to the 31 per cent water in the Sardar Sarovar Dam (as on April 27, 2018), the water level in Kadana dam located further upstream (beyond Wanakbori) on the river Mahisagar stands at 59 per cent of the total gross storage of 1,249 MCM (million cubic metre). Officials say that Kadana currently has an inflow of 395cusecs and about 460 cusecs is being released into the Mahi canal net”ork. “This transfer will help us to be less dependent on the dead water of Narmada dam which is currently being”used,” Joshi said.
At Padal, about nine submerged centrifugal pumps attached to a similar number of freshly painted blue pipes are drawing water from the Mahi irrigation canal and draining it into the Narmada main canal. “The work on the project began towards the end of March and we started pumping Mahi water into the Narmada canal from April 13,” said Kalpesh Javanjale, a mechanical engineer of Ahmedabad-based Aqua Machinery Pvt Ltd, which has been given the work of installing the new system at Padal.
“We are working round-the-clock. We will be completing the work on the project in the next seven days. We will be installing a total of 16 submersible pumps which can drain over 600 cusecs of water into the Narmada canal,” Javanjale said while inspecting the work at the site where a group of workers and landmovers were engaged in preparing the site, littered with pipes and freshly dug earth, for the next set of installations which also include a set of four transformers which will supply uninterrupted power to the submersible pumps. The Gujarat government plans to lift water from Mahi till June 30. Monsoon is likely to arrive before this date.