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Narmada is the only solution, says Keshubhai

Narmada is the only solution, says Keshubhai

Rajiv Shah
The Times of India
April 28, 2000
Title:  Narmada is the only solution, says Keshubhai
Author:  Rajiv Shah
Publication:  The Times of India
Date:  April 28, 2000

GANDHINAGAR:  Denying reports of starvation deaths, chief minister Keshubhai Patel feels that Narmada is the panacea for a permanent solution to the recurring droughts in Gujarat.  He says there is need to have watershed projects to replenish water, but blames the previous Congress governments for not doing enough on this score leading to overuse of groundwater.

The CM told The Times of India News Service that there has been no death due to starvation.  ``They are natural deaths because of one disease or the other.  In one case, the man who died had savings of Rs 2,000.  How can he die of starvation?''

The denial comes in the wake of reports from Sabarkantha district, where a man and daughter reportedly died of starvation on Tuesday. The family had reportedly been living on a half-corn rotla a day for the last one week.

Keshubhai admitted that the drought was ``the worst in the century'' and said Narmada held the only solution to the state's 8,000-odd water-starved villages.  Raising the Narmada's dam's height by another 110 feet would have helped.  ``Had we been allowed to raise the height, we could have begun implementation of the project that would take Narmada waters right upto Kutch.  We have built canals, but unless water reaches that level, drinking water will not flow down to Kutch and Saurashtra.  Two Saurashtra districts and parts of Ahmedabad are being fed water through the Narmada and the Mahi-based pipeline project.''

He blamed the earlier Congress governments for not initiating drives to protect the scarce water resources.  ``We didn't do enough to ensure that the underground water we use is replenished fast enough. During monsoons, the water received in the ponds was allowed to flow away.''

The Congress governments did not implement the scheme to provide water to several villages together, he alleged.  Of the 43 schemes launched in 1987, only four were completed.  Checkdams were not built, village ponds were allowed to get silted and the ponds were never deepened.

He lauded the efforts of industrial houses in fighting the drought. ``Reliance is supplying water free-of-cost to Jamnagar from its desalination plant.  The others are helping to procure and supply fodder,'' he added.

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