“This ini­tia­tive is for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions”

IN­TER­VIEW: Vi­jay Ru­pani, CM, Gu­jarat

Governance Now - - SUJALAM SUFALAM -

Speak­ing to Rid­hima Ku­mar, Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter Vi­jay Ru­pani elab­o­rates on the Su­jalam Su­falam scheme to re­ju­ve­nate ta­lavdis and de­silt reser­voirs and lakes. He also speaks on wa­ter, pol­i­tics, and con­ser­va­tion.

What makes the Su­jalam Su­falam ini­tia­tive unique?

Gu­jarat has un­der­taken Jal Ab­hiyan on a large scale: more than 13,000 ponds and lakes have been deep­ened, many check­dams have been de­silted, and 5,500 km of the canal net­work has been cleaned. The Khar­i­cut canal (which runs through east­ern Ahmed­abad and had be­come a dump for garbage and ef­flu­ents) has been cleaned for the first time. Ta­lavdis (or ponds) have been cre­ated in farms, forests and other places. As many as 32 rivers have been re­ju­ve­nated, and leak­ages in 32,000 valves in pipe­lines have been re­paired.

A de­sali­na­tion plant has been sanc­tioned in Jo­dia vil­lage near Jam­na­gar, for which the ten­der has been fi­nalised. It will process 10 crore litres of sea wa­ter daily, work­ing un­der the PPP model: tech­nol­ogy and fi­nance will be pro­vided by pri­vate par­ties. A lo­cal pur­chase agree­ment has been signed: de­sali­nated wa­ter will be bought at 5.7 paise per litre from the plant and given to lo­cals for drink­ing.

We also plan to re­cy­cle and re­use wa­ter from drains, which will be pro­cessed and supplied to in­dus­tries, construction com­pa­nies, power plants in­stead of the Nar­mada wa­ter they are given in small quan­ti­ties now. We re­cently launched a pol­icy for re­use of treated wa­ter un­der the Jal Ab­hiyan. At present, 55 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have sewage treat­ment plants (STPS). Ten­ders for an­other 55 will be fi­nalised by June 10. so 110 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will soon have work­ing stps. Ma­hana­gars al­ready have stps. The treated wa­ter from these stps will be sold, gen­er­at­ing rev­enue for the lo­cal self-gov­ern­ment body. if no­body is will­ing to buy it, it will be used to ir­ri­gate nearby farm­lands and for fill­ing ponds. This will raise the wa­ter ta­ble.

What was the trig­ger for launch­ing this huge ab­hiyan?

First, peo­ple have been en­thu­si­as­tic about end­ing the state’s wa­ter prob­lems. Gu­jarat ko paanidaar ba­nana hai. sec­ond, we want to turn drink­ing wa­ter short­ages into a thing of the past. The ini­tia­tive was be­gun and car­ried out in this spirit; it wasn’t prompted by any emer­gency. ear­lier, gov­ern­ment de­part­ments used to do some pre-mon­soon ac­tiv­i­ties. This time, the gov­ern­ment has made this a cam­paign. From the chief min­is­ter down, the en­tire gov­ern­ment ma­chin­ery is in­volved. Be­cause of this, peo­ple and NGOS have par­tic­i­pated on a large scale. Peo­ple also con­trib­uted fi­nan­cially. To­day’s event [the May 31 cul­mi­na­tion event at dhand­huka] was spon­sored by the peo­ple, not by the gov­ern­ment. ₹6 crore was spent.

Su­jalam Su­falam is aimed at the fu­ture. What about the cur­rent wa­ter cri­sis?

in Jan­uary, the Con­gress raised a ruckus, say­ing there’s no wa­ter in the Nar­mada and that the qual­ity of wa­ter be­ing supplied is bad. Con­gress lead­ers even al­leged that wa­ter had been wasted dur­ing elec­tions. All this is wrong. This year, there has been less rain­fall in the Nar­mada catch­ment area in Mad­hya Pradesh. Af­ter ev­ery mon­soon, the Nar­mada Con­trol Author­ity, which has rep­re­sen­ta­tives from four states (MP, Gu­jarat, Ma­ha­rash­tra and ra­jasthan), re­views wa­ter lev­els in the river be­fore wa­ter is dis­trib­uted to the four states. Mad­hya Pradesh’s quota is usu­ally 18 mil­lion acre-feet, re­duced now to 9 mil­lion acre-feet. The same has hap­pened with Ma­ha­rash­tra and ra­jasthan. Gu­jarat’s quota of 9 mil­lion acre-feet, too has been re­duced to about half, that is, 4.7 mil­lion acre-feet.

The other thing is that, de­spite this re­duced quota, farm­ers have con­tin­ued to re­ceive wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion with­out even a one per­cent re­duc­tion in sup­ply. Wa­ter was supplied dur­ing winter too. Be­sides, we pro­vided them drink­ing wa­ter. Till March 15, there was no re­duc­tion in wa­ter sup­ply. Af­ter March 15, we stopped sup­ply­ing wa­ter, as stip­u­lated in the Nar­mada agree­ment: we don’t sup­ply wa­ter dur­ing sum­mer. in Gu­jarat, 93 per­cent of the agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion is from two crops, mon­soon and winter. Only seven per­cent is from a sum­mer crop: it’s only for this seven per­cent that we have stopped wa­ter sup­ply from the Nar­mada canal net­work, us­ing it in­stead for drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply. in Jan­uary, i had said there would be no drink­ing wa­ter cri­sis till July 31. We have done de­tailed, vil­lage-level plan­ning and vil­lages have all been pro­vided wa­ter. it’s al­ready June, and we are close to that date with­out any re­duc­tion in wa­ter sup­ply. The so-called ‘wa­ter cri­sis’ has been han­dled well through care­ful plan­ning.

It is said that the BJP won state elec­tions through ‘wa­ter pol­i­tics’.

We did not work for any po­lit­i­cal gain. We worked for the ben­e­fit of Gu­jarat. The BJP has the will power to turn any calamity into an op­por­tu­nity. We worked hard, keep­ing in mind that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of Gu­jarat should not face a wa­ter cri­sis.

since in­de­pen­dence there had been so much de­po­si­tion of silt in the shin­goda dam in Gir Na­tional Park and sanc­tu­ary that the dam which had 1,200 mil­lion cu­bic feet ca­pac­ity was able to store only 700 mil­lion cu­bic feet. We had it de­silted and it is now able to hold 1,000 mil­lion cu­bic feet.

Gu­jarat has been reel­ing un­der wa­ter cri­sis. Are there any ef­forts for wa­ter con­ser­va­tion?

re­use, recharg­ing and recycling will be done to save ev­ery drop of wa­ter. like the PM says, “Per drop, more crop.” Pani paramesh­war ka prasad hai (wa­ter is God’s gift) and it should be used ju­di­ciously. We will con­tinue this ab­hiyan for three years, that is, two more years.

Construction is low­er­ing the wa­ter ta­ble. Is there a way to stop that?

Not in the cities. in ru­ral ar­eas, there’s some scope. in the saurash­tra re­gion, you don’t get wa­ter un­less you dig 400 feet. We have to rely more on sur­face wa­ter. Gu­jarat leads in this. The Nar­mada canal net­work and 1.5 lakh kms of pipe­line are help­ing in this.

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