Despite surging water in Sardar Sarovar Dam that has taken the water level to 119.48 metres, just two metres short of its overflow mark until its height was raised in 2017, farmers in Gujarat, who depend on Narmada canal water for irrigation, are facing severe water crisis this summer. To top it, SRPF personnel are keeping a close watch on those siphoning water from the canal, which is also called the “lifeline of Gujarat”.
The dam had stopped supplying water for irrigation in February end, much ahead of the March 15 deadline announced by the state government. According to the officials of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), which administers the dam and the canal network, notices were issued to farmers as early as January 22, informing them of the cut in irrigation water and advising them not to sow summer crops.
However, despite the steady inflow of about 5,500 cusecs of water on an average from Indira Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh since March, the farmers have not received any relief. Farmers have been served notices to withdraw pumps from canals, right from Kevadia to Banaskantha.
The SSNNL has justified its decision of not releasing water for irrigation, saying that as per policy norms Narmada dam is “not meant to supply water for irrigation in summer”. “It is an annual practice where farmers are warned against sowing summer crops if they have no alternate arrangements of water for irrigation and are dependent only on Narmada. As per the policy laid down by Narmada Control Authority, the dam is not meant for supplying water for irrigation in the summer. The deployment of security personnel along the main canal and the branch canals is a routine exercise as many farmers illegally draw water from the canals during this time,” a SSNNL official said.
As against last year, when the dam was relying on its dead storage to supply water to the state, with the water level down to almost 104 metres, the Sardar Sarovar basin at present has a live storage of 1,144 MCM. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani also recently assured people that dam has sufficient water to last till July.
Recently, farmer leader and founder of Gujarat Khedut Ekta Samiti, Sagar Rabari, sent a letter to the CM demanding water for irrigation and a break-up of the water available in the Sardar Sarovar basin. “Since July last year, the dam has received over 6MAF of water. However, the supply for irrigation has been less than 2MAF. The irrigation water was cut off in February itself, leaving farmers of parched areas like Morbi and Banskantha in a lurch,” Rabari said.
But SSNNL officials rejected Rabari’s assertion. “Last year there was a water crisis, and therefore the amount of water that came in Gujarat’s share was 5.9 MAF as against the 9MAF that we should be getting. This year, the water level in the basin has risen, thanks to a steady flow of water from Indira Sagar dam in MP, which generates power and releases the surplus water into the Sardar Sarovar. Last year, we drew water from the dead storage. Just because water is available, it does not mean that we must stop using it judiciously. The farmers have been warned already,” an official of SSNNL said.
According to SSNNL, the storage in the Narmada basin is sufficient to see the year through, but the department will continue to follow its irrigation water cut policy. “We haven’t been asked to cut any water except for irrigation supply which is as per the tribunal orders for summer.”