Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL), the autonomous body of the Gujarat government that handles Sardar Sarovar project and distribution of Narmada water in the state, has in an advertisement asked farmers not to sow water-intensive crops like sugarcane, paddy and banana in the current year. SSNNL has also made it clear that it will not be responsible for providing water if sowing of such crops is done despite the advisory.
This is second formal advisory from SSNNL to farmers related to farming in the current year. In January, SSNNL had asked farmers not to go for summer crops, citing less availability of Narmada water for irrigation. The latest advisory has come in the form of an advertisement in newspapers that also invites applications from farmers to get Narmada water for the Kharif season by July 31.
It says, “In the Command area, water will be distributed for irrigation purpose on the basis of availability of water. It is being informed not to sow water intensive crops like sugarcane, paddy, banana etc. in the Narmada command areas. Despite this, if sowing for such crops is done, then the office of SSNNL will not be responsible for providing water to it.”
In the advertisement, SSNNL has also made it clear that if Gujarat gets less water by Narmada Control Authority (NCA) due to less rain in the catchment areas of Narmada, it will be distributing the Narmada water accordingly.
As of Tuesday, water level in the dam reservoir stood at 109.62 metres, short of the minimum draw level of 110 metres. B N Navalawala, Adviser to the Chief Minister on Water, said the current advisory should be seen as a precautionary measure and nothing beyond that.
“If you see the Water Use Plan of Narmada, water intensive crops are not preferred. Looking at the present position of the storage, this type of advisory is always precautionary… Monsoon is not precisely predictable. Last year was a deficit year. We reached almost the bottom of the storage (of Narmada dam). So obviously we have to reach to a comfortable status (this year). Therefore one should not read anything beyond that,” Navalawala said.
Chairman and Managing Director of SSNNL S S Rathore said, “We give farmers such advisory every year. It is only that we have given it in a formal form of an advertisement this year.”
As per the NCA, Gujarat is generally entitled to 9 million acre feet water from Narmada river valley every year. Last year, due to less rain in the catchment areas of Narmada in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat got only 4.71 million acre feet water. This led to an unprecedented situation in the state with concerns raised over availability of water in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat. The Gujarat government had taken unprecedented steps to ensure that the state had enough drinking water.
On January 12, SSNNL declared that it had limited stock of Narmada water. It had also declared it would provide Narmada water for irrigation only till March 15, while asking farmers not to go for cultivation of summer crops.
The state government had also moved NCA, for the first time, to get permission to draw dead storage of water from the Narmada dam through Irrigation Bypass Tunnel (IBPT). Permission was granted by the NCA.
NCA generally does allocation of Narmada water to the four partner states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan – for every water year (July 1 to June 30) in October after the rainy months of July, August and September are over, and the Narmada river valley gets most of its water of the year.