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People of Kutch demand share of Narmada water
24 April 2006

People of Kutch demand share of Narmada water, Supreme Court issues notice to State Government. 
Gandhinagar,April 22: THE Narendra Modi Government may have launched a concerted campaign against Medha Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan for her anti-Narmada dam stand. But the Government appears to be facing trouble on its own home turf, with the people of drought-prone Kutch demanding their due share of the waters.

The Government is virtually in bind, for the Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to it on a petition filed by the Kutch Jal Sankat Nivaran Samiti seeking implementation of the Narmada Tribunal Award under which the Kutch district has been allotted 0.2 MAF (million acre feet) of the Narmada water.

 “It was due to our drought-prone Kutch district that the tribunal had agreed to fix the Narmada water quota of 9 MAF for Gujarat. It’ll be great injustice for the people of Kutch, if the government fails to allot the due share of water to the district,” former BJP chief minister Suresh Mehta said.

Mehta, who hails from Kutch, said he was not averse to guiding the Samiti leaders in their fight. “I am prepared to even visit Delhi and brief the Samiti’s lawyer Harish Salve who has already submitted before the apex court that the Gujarat Government has not implemented the award of the Narmada Tribunal in letter and spirit,” he said.

Besides the usual quota of water allotted to Kutch by the tribunal, its people are demanding additional flood waters of 1 MAF that flows through the main canal during the monsoon. The government has agreed to distribute additional 1 MAF of flood waters each among North Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kutch. It has already issued official orders on this for Saurashtra and North Gujarat, but is yet to issue it for Kutch.

Mehta said though the Government was making all efforts to meet the potable water demand for the people of Kutch through the multi-crore Narmada canal branch Saurashtra pipeline, much remains to be done to provide water to key agriculture and industrial sectors in the region. “A hue and cry is being raised on the issue of dam height. But nobody is trying to ensure that the branch canal network is laid speedily across Kutch”, he said.

A Samiti leader said the Government was still in the process of inviting tenders for laying the branch canal network criss-crossing 360 km across Kutch. “One wonders how the Narmada water will reach farms in the absence of this canal network, even after the Sardar Sarovar dam reaches its full height at 138 metres”, he said, saying that the tendering was expected to be over in September this year.

Farmers in Kutch have been demanding that the quantum of Narmada water for irrigation be raised from 1.12 lakh hectares to 1.75 lakh hectares. Not only this, industries in the district are also pressing for adequate supply of Narmada water especially when the district is witnessing industrial development, post-2001 earthquake.

Bashir Pathan
Ahmedabad News Online kutchhis globally , from Mumbai

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