It’s a strange situation in Gujarat. While everyone is talking about unprecedented drought and the drought hit are suffering due to lack of water for irrigation and even water supply, the Sardar Sarovar Dam today (April 16) is at 119.14 m, and has 1095 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) in Live storage, in addition to about 3700 MCM of water in what is called dead storage. The Dam has received much more water this year compared to last year. SSP Water level on April 16, 2019 is up from 115.55 m, the lowest level it reached this water year[i] on March 3, 2019, since 2018 monsoon.
In fact, it was astonishing to find that the water level at SSP kept rising from March 3 (115.55 m) to April 8, 2019 (119.37 m), it has only marginally dropped since then. This was happening bang in the middle of summer!
How did this happen? It was possible thanks to Madhya Pradesh, which kept releasing rather generous quantity of water daily from its Indira Sagar Project (ISP) reservoir upstream, the feeder dam for SSP. It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Madhya Pradesh, in a 24% deficit monsoon year, is sending so much water to Gujarat in the middle of summer. It could either be that Narmada Control Authority, controlled by Union Government is twisting its arms, or MP is releasing the water from ISP to generate power and is not able to use the water and it is inadvertently flowing to Gujarat.
The water level at Indira Sagar Dam in upstream Madhya Pradesh on April 16, 2019 is 253.8 m, with 3668 MCM in live storage.
Indira Sagar works as feeder dam for SSP, which means that SSP could possibly get at least about 2150 MCM more water between now and June 30, 2019, when the monsoon will herald new water year in Narmada Valley. Why then are the drought hit farmers and thirsty people of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat not getting their due share of water from SSP?
Last year on this date (April 16), SSP water level was at 105.81 m, and it had NO water in live storage and had already consumed around 700 MCM of dead storage water. The situation this year is much better, and yet farmers have suffered more this year. Cotton production and yield this year, it is reported, is way below those of last year, ostensibly since there was less water! In fact, Gujarat cotton production and yield in 2018-19 is expected to be at its lowest in a decade, lower than even the previous year[ii]. This could have been avoided using the water available in SSP reservoir, but why was this not used?
Why so much water in Sardar Sarovar in a deficit year? The June-Sept 2018 South West monsoon ended disastrously for Gujarat with statewide rainfall of 484.6 mm being 28% below normal, with rainfall in Kutch and Saurashtra being 316 mm, 34% below normal. Western Madhya Pradesh was much better off with monsoon rainfall being 837.6 mm, just 4% below normal. However, the Narmada Basin had 24% below normal rainfall.
But, going by Central Water Commission’s weekly reservoir storage bulletin, the Indira Sagar reservoir was almost full by Sept 27, 2018, when water level in the dam reached 262.13 m, with live storage of 9601 MCM, equal to 99% of live storage capacity. In fact, that storage on that date was by far the highest among all the 91 reservoirs of India’s largest reservoirs that CWC monitors, the nearest second one being far behind with live storage of 6059 MCM at Pong reservoir. Indira Sagar got filled up to this record level, thanks to over 1000 mm rainfall in Khandwa, Hoshangabad, Dindori, Jabalpur and Mandla districts of MP, among others. All these districts had deficit rainfall, except Khandwa, which had 22% surplus rainfall.
NWDT award stipulation for water releases from MP According to Clause-IX of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award[iii] “Final Orders and Decisions”, in a 75% dependable water year (in simple terms, this means a normal year), annual regulated flow of 8.12 MAF (Million Acre Feet) (10015 MCM) shall be released to SSP, ex-Maheshwar Project. The operation of Indira Sagar Project shall be carried out in such a way to facilitate the regulation of Sardar Sarovar. The amount of Narmada water that enters Gujarat (SSP) from MP is measured and reported in Daily Status Report[iv] on Narmada Control Authority (NCA) website. When this was calculated for the current water, we get following figures for the amount of water SSP received from MP in different months during current water year that started in July 2018.
|Month||Narmada Water releases by MP for SSP, MCM|
|April 2019 (till Apr 16)||354.73|
This means that out of 10015.8 MCM water that MP is supposed to release to Gujarat in a 75% dependable year, it has already released 7871.23 MCM by April 16, 2019, and need to release hardly 2150 MCM more water by the end of current water year, i.e. by June 30, 2019. This it can easily do since water in live storage at ISP on April 16, 2019 is 3668 MCM.
But the obligation of releasing 10015.8 MCM is in a 75% dependable year. If we go by IMD’s rainfall figure showing 24% below normal rains in the Narmada river basin in SW Monsoon, 96% below normal during Oct-Dec 2018, 74% below normal during Jan-Feb 2019 and 55% below normal during March 1, 2019 to Apr 16, 2019, this is certainly not a 75% dependable year.
Unfortunately, it is not clear on what basis NCA decides the MP obligation to release water to Gujarat in a given year, nor has NCA decided that for the current year. It remains a mystery as to why MP is releasing so much water to Gujarat in this hugely deficit year. However, once it is available to Gujarat, one expected Gujarat to use it prudently for the thirsty people and drought hit farmers, but Gujarat does not seem to be doing that.
Power Generation figures The power generation figures at Narmada hydropower stations corroborate that indeed Sardar Sarovar Reservoir released more water through its 250 MW Canal Head Power House (the 1200 MW River Bed Power House of SSP has generated NO POWER since July 1, 2017, as there has been no surplus water in Narmada basin in last two years to release through RBPH). According to the figures from Central Electricity Authority Monthly generation figures, CHPH generated 593.53 MU (Million Units) power between July 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, which is 35.44% higher than the power generated at CHPH for the same period previous year.
Similarly, the 1000 MW ISP in upstream Madhya Pradesh generated 1165.14 MU during the same period this year, which is huge 169% above the power generated in the same period here in previous year. The 520 MW Omkareshwar project in Madhya Pradesh on Narmada river downstream from ISP generated 545.1 MU power in the same period this year, which is 146% above the power generated in the same period last year. This again corroborates that indeed ISP and Omkareshwar released much more water this year compared to last year.
Why are people of Gujarat suffering? The cotton story above shows how the cotton yield and production in Gujarat this year is lowest of a decade, lower than even last year, claiming that there was less water available in Gujarat this year. We saw above that this claim is clearly not correct as far as SSP, which Gujarat claims is its biggest source of water is concerned. There are a number of other stories that show how people of Gujarat are suffering while water is evaporating from the SSP reservoir and government is preparing to start boating downstream of SSP dam. Does it show that tourism bucks for Gujarat government are more important than needs of people and farmers?
- BBC has done several stories on drought in Gujarat this year, including how Banni (Kutch) cattle grazers are experiencing this year as the worst drought in decades[v];
- Kabir at Wire has done a number of stories highlighting the plight of the people, maldharis and cattle of Kutch in this worst drought that the area is suffering since 30 years.[vi]
Here is a tragic story of villages (called Vandhs in Kutch) without Bijli, Pani and Sadak, just 15 km from Dhordo, where annual Rann Utsav (festival of desert) is held by Gujarat govt each year (including current year), where there are all the attractions for tourists including RAIN DANCE. But Bhitara Vandh and Nana Bhitara gets tanker water once in 5-6 days if they are lucky. (https://thewire.in/rights/gujarat-kutch-bijli-sadak-pani-hamlets)
- This story shows how angry are most of the farmers of Saurashtra for lack of water, lack of remunerative prices for their crops and crop insurance money. (https://india.mongabay.com/2019/04/will-agriculture-distress-in-saurashtra-benefit-the-opposition/)
- This story[vii] examines the situation in Gujarat’s worst-hit Kutch region, where scanty rainfall and rising temperatures have exacerbated competition for scarce water between farms on the one hand and cities and industries on the other, while raising questions over why the SSP’s raison d’etre–to irrigate farms in Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat–remains unfulfilled.
- Medha Patkar[viii] also shows how Gujarat has refused to build canals to ensure irrigation to those for whom the project was justified.
- Investigation by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti of Gujarat[ix] showed shocking, unprecedented levels of TDS in Narmada water downstream of SSP Dam. Why can Gujarat not release the 4000 cusecs water that PSS activists are demanding from the available water at SSP rather than let the river, people and fisherfolk suffer? It would need about 624 MCM additional water from now to June 30 if Gujarat were to increase the releases from SSP from current 600 cusecs to 4000 cusecs that PSS had demanded. As we saw above, Gujarat has water for this, but will Gujarat government oblige the people of Bharuch?
- In Untadi village in Surendranagar district, people are forced to consume unsafe water, as there is no water supply from Narmada pipeline. (https://www.aninews.in/news/national/general-news/gujarat-untadi-village-reeling-under-water-scarcity-villagers-forced-to-consume-same-water-as-animals20190417100702/)
In Conclusion Available information used in this analysis, all from official sources, show that Gujarat received a lot more water at SSP, which Gujarat claims is its biggest source of water, this year. However, while people and farmers are suffering, Gujarat government has not used this available water to satisfy basic needs of people of Gujarat. It seems the Gujarat government has a lot to answer to the people of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat, as Gujarat votes for Parliament on April 23, 2019.
Himanshu Thakkar (firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS: BBC (Gujarati) story on April 19, 2019 based on this article: https://www.bbc.com/gujarati/india-47976392
[i] Water year is counted by Narmada Control Authority from July 1 to June 30
[vi] https://thewire.in/rights/gujarat-drought-kutch-water-pipelines, https://thewire.in/rights/gujarat-drought-kutch-grasslands-migration, https://thewire.in/rights/gujarat-border-drought-water-crisis