Gujarat government faces ire over water crisis in the state

Gandhinagar, May 5 (IANS) The Gujarat government has come under attack from the Aam Aadmi Party and its own MP for its failure on water management, resulting in water shortage in some parts of the state. People are threatening to boycott voting in the coming assembly elections.
People from 30 villages of Kheralu taluka are threatening to boycott voting because since the last 25 years representatives of the region are demanding rejuvenation of traditional water reservoirs and filling them by lifting water from the Narmada and Dharoi irrigation projects, but these demands have not been met. People are in dire need of drinking and irrigation water, stated the BJP’s sitting MP of Patan Bharatsinh Dabhi, who is also the former MLA of Kheralu taluka.
In the beginning of April, state government spokesman and Education Minister Jitu Vaghani had assured that there will be no shortage of water in the state. Last week, the government announced that it will fill North Gujarat and Saurashtra water reservoirs from the Narmada canals to meet drinking and irrigation demands. But, it seems on the ground things are moving at a snail’s pace, which is why farmers from Palanpur taluka and the surrounding areas staged a protest, demanding to fill Malam lake with Narmada water.
People of Kheralu need to learn a lesson from Palanpur farmers, the way they protested for Malam lake, said Sagarbhai Chaudhary, social activist from Kheralu. “Till date villagers were boycotting polls of gram panchayats, but it has not yielded results and so for the first time, farmers and people from 30 villages have decided to boycott assembly elections because there is no surface water source in the area,” he said.
Chaudhary said the area is dependent on ground water. “To dig one borewell costs Rs 70 lakh and if it fails, they have to invest another Rs 30 lakh for a second trial. It has become difficult to survive on groundwater, the only option is to revive traditional surface sources for which the state needs to either invest or cooperate with local villagers who are ready to do it own their own.”
However, the situation is not that bad, claims Aam Aadmi Party leader Sagar Rabari. Citing the Narmada Control Authority data, Rabari says “water level in the Narmada dam is 120.68 meters, the total storage is 1341 million cubic metre and in acreage feet it turns to 10,87,166 acre feet. Against that the state’s drinking water demand for the next two months will be at the most 1,43,333 acre feet.”
Rabari’s argument is that even after maintaining a minimum water reserve as per the norms, at least 9,43,833 acre feet will be available in the state to meet drinking and irrigation water demand for two months. “But, it is the failure of the government and mismanagement that people are dying for water. Had it planned and stored water in various reservoirs in March or April, the situation would have been under control,” he said.

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