Will Kalpasar quench Saurashtra's thirst?
Wish upon a lake
The Controversies over the multi-crore Sardar Sarovar Project notwithstanding, the Gujarat government has dreamt up a mega dam project across the Gulf of Khambhat, to trap the waters of 12 rivers that flow into the Gulf of Cambay and create a huge freshwater reservoir. Supposed to end all Saurashtra's water problems, the project is called Kalpasar (after a magical wishing lake of local lore).
Kalpasar's dam (64.16 km long and 35 meters wide) will connect Ghoga in Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra and Hansot in Bharuch district of South Gujarat and harness the Sabarmati, Dhadar and the rivers of Saurashtra. It will store about 16,791 million cubic meters (mcm) of water and annually provide for domestic use (900 mcm), irrigation (5,891 mcm) and industries (500 mcm).
Of the many concerns that emerge with the starting up of any such project -- structural aspects, environmental impact or potential disasters -- the fundamental issue is to supply safe drinking water, which will depend on the sustainability of the reservoir. And for Kalpasar, this will depend on three major parameters: the fresh water inflow, silt in the reservoir and the load of pollution the reservoir will be exposed to.
Waiting in the wings to pollute Kalpasar further are domestic sewage, industrial effluents and agricultural run-off within the river basins. In 2000, 64 per cent of all the Class- i cities and 75 per cent of the Class- ii cities of Gujarat state were located along the three major river basins of Mahi, Narmada and Sabarmati. In 2005, about 20 million people live within the catchment area of the proposed Kalpasar reservoir. It's still not clear how much of the sewage from this area is treated.
While the Gujarat government is elated now, it needs to look at project risks to derive optimum benefits.
Subhrangsu Goswami is a research associate with the Centre For Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad
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