In all, 1,700 to 1,800 million litres per day (MLD) are pumped at Dhanki in Surendranagar district into the canals to Malia in Jamnagar district and Vallabhipur in Bhavnagar district. The waters reaching the two points is so short even against the allocation of 700 MLD for drinking, a mere 330 MLD is available. "This has forced the Gujarat Supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) to use underground sources to meet local requirements", said state water supplies secretary H K Dash.
As things deteriorated, on Tuesday, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) MD S Jagadeesan and joint MD G R Aloria rushed to the Dhanki-Malia area for inspection.
"We have stepped up patrolling by State Reserve Police (SRP) along the canals and geared up local engineers for daily monitoring. Farmers up to five km away sink diesel pipelines into the canals and illegally siphon waters to irrigate fields. Many pumps have been removed. Things will improve now," Jagadeesan said.
In June, ahead of monsoon, when a similar situation arose, Gujarat government began a campaign to root out diesel pumps illegally sunk into the Narmada branch canals. About 150 pumps were seized and more than 1,000 connections snapped. Just like this time, when farmers need water for sowing the winter crop, things were particularly bad in the 121-km-long Dhanki-Malia stretch in June.
"As against 400 MLD of water allocated for drinking, just 230 MLD is available at Malia", one official said, adding, "This has affected water supply to cities like Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhuj as also 821 villages of Kutch district, 688 villages of Jamnagar district and 541 villages of Rajkot district. There is no permanent solution to the problem."
While state water supplies department officials say they have written several letters to the Narmada department but "there is no response", a Narmada department official said.
"Earlier, farmers of the area used to take just one crop. But now they take three crops. Cotton and jeera, both cash crops, earn them huge margins. And all of Narmada water is illegal and free," he added.