The Times of India: Ahmedabad:Monday, December 24, 2012.
Crores of gallons of precious water, which could have irrigated at least 10,000 acres of farmland and provided drinking water to lakhs of households for months, is simply flowing into the arid saltpans of Little Rann of Kutch.
Locals say the water has been overflowing from the sub canals of the Zinzuwada branch canal for the past 45 days, but authorities have turned a blind eye to the waste. The water from the sub-canals is given to farmers but there is no system of conserving the excess, which is allowed to drain out into the Little Rann.
The water has also entered the saltpans in the region, ruining the livelihoods of hundreds of people. It is during early winter that salt is harvested from the pans. Besides, the water has flooded the crucial 20-km natural corridor of the endangered wild asses in the famous sanctuary here.
"A 20 km strip of 600 meter wide water spill with one foot depth would mean 3.6 millon cubic meters of water which can provide 10 litres per capita per day of drinking water for 10 lakh people for over one year," said Tushar Shah, senior fellow, International Water Management Institute.
Only in January, five wild asses drowned when a herd of 17 had slipped into a soggy cavity while trying to cross under a bridge being constructed across a Narmada branch canal in the sanctuary, said Ambu Patel, a resident of Kharaghoda.
"At least 280 saltpans are marooned," said Bachu Degama, a saltpan worker in Patdi taluka of Surendranagar. Ranshi Padalia, another worker in Thad village said, "We are unable to harvest salt as our salt pans are submerged in sweet water. Each saltpan owner will have to bear a loss of Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000."
S U Chauhan, superintending engineer (circle 4), Narmada distributaries, said they will look into the matter. However, sources in Narmada water resources department blamed farmers for the waste saying that they regularly break the gates erected along the branch canals to get water for their fields.
Gujarat was lucky to escape a devastating drought by the skin of its teeth in the summer of 2012. However, one can't bank on luck all the time. Given the severe water crisis that the state faces every year in the north and Saurashtra, this increasingly precious resource can't be wasted like this. The Narmada dam authorities should immediately put in place a more efficient monitoring system so that excess water is diverted towards the needy.