De­fy­ing grav­ity

Down to Earth - - RIVER INTERLINKING -

re­quires trans­port­ing river wa­ter against grav­ity. This is the rea­son Na­tional Wa­ter Devel­op­ment Agency dropped the project from its pro­posed Na­tional River Link­ing Project, which in it­self is con­tro­ver­sial.

A white ele­phant

The main prob­lem in­volved in trans­port­ing wa­ter against grav­ity is that it re­quires an im­prac­ti­cal amount of power. For in­stance, the

432-crore Nar­mada-Kshipra link re­quires wa­ter to be trans­ported from Sis­lia reser­voir in the plains of the Nar­mada to Mudla,lo­cated at a height of 400 me­tres.For this,the project em­ploys a 1.82 me­tre-wide,48 km-long pipe­line.As per ini­tial es­ti­mates of Nar­mada Val­ley Devel­op­ment Author­ity (nvda), which is im­ple­ment­ing the river-link project, at least 27.5 MW of elec­tric­ity is re­quired to lift 430 mil­lion litres per day (mld) of wa­ter. This will cost 119 crore an­nu­ally—over one-fourth of the cost of the project’s con­struc­tion. The daily cost of pump­ing would be 32 lakh,which trans­lates into 9 per kilo­litre. Ra­jnish Vaish, prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary of nvda, told Down To Earth (dte) that wa­ter for do­mes­tic use will be pro­vided to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties at 15-`17 per kilo­litre. It is on a par with the tar­iff paid by nearby In­dore city.

Es­ti­mates by Bar­wani-based non-profit Man­than Ad­hyayan Ken­dra, how­ever, show that if other op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance costs and losses in tran­sit are con­sid­ered, the wa­ter tar­iff could go up to 50 per kilo­litre—5-10 times the price that ur­ban con­sumers else­where in In­dia pay.Whether peo­ple can af­ford this wa­ter is not yet clear.

Sim­i­lar mis­giv­ings have been ex­pressed re­gard­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity of wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion. Vaish says wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion would be pro­vided at 10,000 per ha an­nu­ally,but only for mi­cro-ir­ri­ga­tion.A pre-paid wa­ter me­ter­ing sys­tem will en­sure that farm­ers do not waste wa­ter, he says. Ac­tivists work­ing with farm­ers, how­ever, are not con­vinced. “Pre-paid me­ter­ing is the most ef­fec­tive ruse for deny­ing wa­ter to the poor. Such schemes have failed in Africa and Bangladesh be­cause peo­ple could not pay,”says Chin­may Mishra of fea­tures agency Sar­vo­daya Press, who has been writ­ing on Nar­mada-re­lated is­sues. Mishra and sev­eral other ac­tivists fear that nvda may di­vert wa­ter from the project to in­dus­tries and ur­ban ar­eas, mainly those along the pro­posed Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Cor­ri­dor.Their con­tention is jus­ti­fied. While nvda is yet to sup­ply drink­ing wa­ter to ben­e­fi­ciary vil­lages,it has al­ready di­verted 90 mld of wa­ter from the Nar­madaK­shipra link to Pitham­pur industrial es­tate in Dhar dis­trict.This was not part of the orig­i­nal plan.Project in-charge M S Ajnare told dte that nvda is not sup­ply­ing wa­ter to ben­e­fi­ciary vil­lages as the in­fra­struc­ture is not ready. He could not pro­vide a time limit by when the vil­lages would get wa­ter.

Mean­while, des­per­ate farm­ers have started lift­ing wa­ter from the Kshipra for ir­ri­ga­tion. “All along its 200 km route, the Kshipra is rid­dled with un­der­ground pipe­lines laid by wa­ter-starved farm­ers who rou­tinely lift wa­ter from check-dams,” says Shashikant Awasthi of Kshipra Pu­narpravah Ab­hiyan, work­ing to re­store flow of the river. Dangi says Mudla got wa­ter only af­ter farm­ers forced nvda to pro­vide for ir­ri­ga­tion.

The Nar­mada-Kshipra link has also led to con­flicts in the re­gion.Omkaresh­war dam on the Nar­mada was orig­i­nally meant to ben­e­fit farm­ers in the Ni­mar plains. But now its wa­ter has been di­verted to Malwa plateau via Sis­lia reser­voir (see ‘De­fy­ing grav­ity’). Early this year,farm­ers from Ni­mar filed a pe­ti­tion with the In­dore Bench of Mad­hya Pradesh High Court,de­mand­ing a stay on in­au­gu­ra­tion of the link.In its ver­dict,the court faulted nvda for chang­ing the dam’s com­mand area to in­clude Malwa.“This could mark the be­gin­ning of an in­ter-re­gional wa­ter con­flict in the state,” says Rehmat bhai of Man­than Ad­hyayan Ken­dra. Link­ing the Nar­mada with the Gamb­hir needs di­vert­ing wa­ter from Ma­hesh­war dam,while the Kali Sindh and Par­vati links will tap Indira Sa­gar dam.

Al­ter­na­tives ig­nored

nvda has two ex­pla­na­tions for un­der­tak­ing the Nar­mada-Malwa river-link project. First, there is no other way to re­vive the arid Malwa. Sec­ond, it is the only way nvda can use up its share of 18.25 mil­lion acre feet (22.5 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres) of Nar­mada wa­ter by 2025, as awarded by the Nar­mada Wa­ter Dis­putes Tri­bunal (nwdt). Af­ter 2025,nwdt will re­dis­tribute the un­used wa­ter among the other Nar­mada basin states.

Rehmat bhai says, “The project is be­ing pushed at the cost of Ni­mar plains,which re­ceives lower an­nual rain­fall than Malwa.The share of wa­ter al­lot­ted could be utilised by ful­fill­ing Ni­mar’s needs.” Chief Min­is­ter Shivraj Singh Chouhan has stated sev­eral times that 700,000 mi­cro-wa­ter re­tain­ing struc­tures have been con­structed all over the state dur­ing his ten­ure. dte’s re­portage shows such struc­tures have im­proved con­di­tions of wa­ter-starved De­was dis­trict (see ‘Penny Fool­ish, Pond Wise’, Jan­uary 16-31, 2012).Ac­tivists say the gov­ern­ment can pro­mote sim­i­lar struc­tures to re­vive Malwa.

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