Desperate remedy

Published: Saturday 15 November 2003

The Gujarat government has come up with a quick-fix solution to ensure that parched areas of the state get irrigation benefits from the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). It has drafted a proposal to constitute a body to develop the irrigation infrastructure. The development means a shift of responsibility from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) -- the nodal body in charge of SSP -- to the agency, called Narmada Canal Area Development Authority.

Isn't it too late to realise the need for a separate body? "It is being constituted to justify the flow of money from the Union government," says Sanath Mehta, former chairperson of SSNNL. According to Tushaar Shah, director of Gujarat-based International Water Management Institute, the original idea of SSNNL was to build lined canals till the village service area with the help of farmers' cooperative or Water Users' Associations (WUAs). But work on organising the village-level community or WUAs did not go alongside the building of the dam; now there is an institutional vacuum. Hence the authority is being constituted. This is another blatant appeasement measure.

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