Sardar Sarovar Dam. PTI file photo.
The people of Gujarat can heave a sigh of relief as Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Friday said that drinking water will be available in the state until the end of July.
"The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has allowed the state government to lift seepage and dead water from the dam and this would help meet the demand and provide relief at least for drinking water. More than 10,000 villages and 167 towns will get drinking water till the end of July," Rupani said.
Gujarat is staring at a severe water crisis due to the low level of water in Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada river.
Touted as the "Lifeline of Gujarat", the multi-purpose project of Sardar Sarovar Dam, fulfills the water needs of 12,000 villages, over 170 towns and serves 4.4 crores of six crores plus population of the state.
As per the mechanism for distribution of water from the project, the four beneficiary states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are allotted 28 million acre feet (MAF) of water in the dam. Of this, MP has been allotted 18.25 MAF, Rajasthan 0.5 MAF, Maharashtra 0.25 MAF and Gujarat 9.34 MAF.
In Gujarat, 1.06 MAF water is for the non-irrigation purpose (0.86 MAF for drinking and 0.2 MAF for the industry) and 7.94 MAF for agriculture. Over time, the need for drinking water has risen to 1.29 MAF.
The NCA in its last meeting had fixed the quota of water for Gujarat at 4.71 MAF, forcing the state government to give priority to drinking water. "The supply to the industry will also be lowered to 0.06 MAF," chief secretary J N Singh had said after the state announced that it will not supply water for irrigation of summer crops after March 15.
The move was necessitated due to lowest rainfall recorded in Narmada catchment area of Madhya Pradesh in last over 15 years.
"The water stored in the dam was spread across 214 km during monsoons but is currently at less than 100 km. The water level too has come near critical storage level of 110.64 metres. The water at this level is sufficient to meet drinking needs for three years but with monsoons still four-and-a-half months away, the right use of water becomes critical," a senior official with Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited said.
A large number of farmers from across the state have been voicing their concerns about lack of Narmada water for irrigation. However, the NCA's decision could come in as a shot in the arm for ruling BJP government that now hopes to at least tide over drinking water woes in the state.