New Delhi: If water is life, for long water or Life has been denied to hundreds of lesser mortals in the Kutch region of Gujarat.
This project was kicked off in 1961 but for decades the works were stalled by eco-fascists and some who shared closer proximity to the Congress party and the so-called sickular brigade.
But on Wednesday, July 6, 2022, history was made as the Narmada water approached Mod Kuba, the village marking the tail-end of Kutch Branch Canal (KBC) in Mandvi taluka of Kutch district. Unsurprisingly, many people gathered to cheer along the bank of the Kutch Branch Canal (KBC).
“Thank you, Prime Minister Modi, my heart is full. Namami Devi Narmade,” screamed many.
“Modi hae toh Mumkin hae,” joined many others. Video footage came on social media and a strong message went to those ‘andolan-karis (eco fascists)’ and their political patrons and friends be in Congress. communist parties or even a neo-player AAP of Arvind Kejriwal.
The Narmada waters have travelled almost 750 km from the Sardar Sarovar Dam to reach this far-off village in the Kutch.
Those involved in the works at various levels say this was the dream of Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat.
Big things truly start with a small dream and then materialised by a long term vision. This is the story of the Narmada project in the Kutch and also in the Saurashtra region.
Saurashtra comprises 11 districts and this region with neighbouring desert areas of Kutch is a perennially drought-prone region.
Initially, the Rs 12,000 crore project was initiated by Modi as Chief Minister in May 2012. There were mega plans and steps taken to fill up 115 dams of the region with excess runoff water of the Sardar Sarovar Dam across the Narmada river with a network of pipelines and then supply it for drinking and irrigation.
In March 2022, a group of journalists landed in the Saurashtra region, and we were told that the arid Saurashtra and parts of the Kutch region would soon have ‘acchey din’ – in more than one sense- as the much ambitious Saurashtra Narmada Avatarana Irrigation Yojana (SAUNI) project is set to supplement floor water to about 115 existing dams.
These dams have been selected based on the deficit storage study for the last ten years. Phase I works started in April 2014 when Narendra Modi was still the chief minister of the western state. The projects sought to strengthen irrigation facilities in 166,000-acre areas of 16 reservoirs.
This phase of work is already commissioned at a total cost of Rs 6473 crore. ‘Sauni’ word in simple Gujarati means — ‘belongs to all’, and now officials call SAUNI a mega milestone in water engineering. One cannot agree more.
During his time, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the project would irrigate over four lakh hectares of land and solve the region’s water problem to a large extent. During monsoon, around three MAF (million-acre feet) of water overflows from the Sardar Sarovar dam and flows into sea.
The authorities drew up plans to transfer one MAF of excess water to dams of Saurashtra, using existing canal networks, and then laying a web of pipelines to fill dams located in the range of 300-500 km from Sardar Sarovar dam. What has turned out now in the Kutch region is a dream come true!
The construction of KBC up to chainage 214 km was completed in 2017. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated that section in May of that year by releasing water into the Tappar Dam near Anjar.
Some officials rightly say a spider pipeline network of 1,125 km long was involved.
The SAUNI Yojana is expected to benefit 737 villages in 11 districts and 31 cities in the Kutch-Saurashtra region.