Recent rain in M.P. revives hopes in drought-hit State

At least 152 talukas out of 225 in 22 districts out of 26, now face the problem of water and fodder “scarcity” due to scanty rainfall this monsoon season in Gujarat, even as the Sardar Sarovar dam has started releasing the Narmada waters, received from Madhya Pradesh, which has been pounded by heavy rains in the last few days.

This may bring some respite to Gujarat which is facing a water shortage both for drinking and irrigation purposes.

Of the 22 districts that have recorded scanty rainfall, all talukas in 14 districts in the Kutch-Saurashtra region, north and central Gujarat, which received less than 150 mm of rains so far, are facing water scarcity, an official said here on Wednesday.

The BJP Government is yet to formally declare a drought. The recent rains in neighbouring MP has revived hopes for rainy days ahead. Declaring a drought may force it to curtail flagship programmes planned in the coming months, ahead of the Assembly elections scheduled by the year-end.

On an average, Gujarat has so far received less than 25 per cent of normal rainfall of 900 mm per annum. The Saurashtra and northern regions have received very little of this, and Kutch only 2 per cent as against the eastern and southern parts where it has been relatively better. Unlike 89 per cent sowing until the first week of August 2011, this year’s has been only 65 per cent. In acreage, as against sowing in 67.87 lakh hectare (ha), this year’s has been only in about 55 lakh ha, a deficit of nearly 12 lakh ha. The 128 dams in the Kutch-Saurashtra region now have only 8 per cent of water left.

A silver lining in an otherwise gloomy monsoon season is, however, the rising of the Narmada’s water level at the Sardar Sarovar dam reservoir to nearly 120 metres of height, out of the 121 metres constructed.

According to an official at the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL), the dam may now overflow anytime, thanks to the rains continuing in its catchment areas in Madhya Pradesh, from where the western State is currently receiving nearly seven lakh cusecs of water daily.

All six hydroelectric generators at the dam are now operational giving 4.80 lakh units of electricity daily to Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Gujarat has also started releasing about 15,000 cusecs of water into the Narmada canals to ease the drinking water and irrigation problems.

The State Government, which had demanded a financial assistance of Rs 14,683 crore to take long-term and short-term measures, and got about Rs 500 crore so far, is likely to increase the amount to Rs 18,000 crore in a fresh memorandum to be submitted to the Centre before the EGoM, headed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, meets this week.

The Narendra Modi Government also plans to provide 15,000 out-of-turn farm power connections to save the existing crops, crop loans at concessional rates and interest waiver for the farmers who may lose their crop.

(This article was published on August 8, 2012)
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