Sunday, April 21, 2019
Indira Sagar dam in Madhya Pradesh
Well-known environmentalist Himanshu Thakkar of the top advocacy group, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) has wondered as why, despite Gujarat having so much Narmada water this year, it is refusing to share it with drought hit and thirsty parts of the state. Analysing figures mainly provided by the Narmada Control Authority, Thakkar says, while water in enough quantity is being released from the upstream dams, Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat are being starved for unknown reasons.
It’s a strange situation in Gujarat. While everyone is talking about unprecedented drought and the drought hit are suffering due to lack of water for irrigation and even water supply, the Sardar Sarovar Dam on April 16 was at 119.14 metres, and had 1095 Million Cubic Meters (MCM) in live storage, in addition to about 3,700 MCM of water in what is called dead storage.
The Dam has received much more water this year compared to last year. The dam’s water level on April 16, 2019 was up from 115.55 metres, the lowest level it reached this water year (counted by Narmada Control Authority from July 1 to June 30) on March 3, 2019, since 2018 monsoon.
In fact, it was astonishing to find that the water level at SSP kept rising from March 3 (115.55 metres) to April 8, 2019 (119.37 metres), it has only marginally dropped since then. This was happening bang in the middle of summer!
A once cultivable agricultural plot in Kutch
How did this happen? It was possible, thanks to Madhya Pradesh, which kept releasing rather generous quantity of water daily from its Indira Sagar Project (ISP) reservoir upstream, the feeder dam for the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). It’s a bit of a mystery as to why Madhya Pradesh, in a 24% deficit monsoon year, is sending so much water to Gujarat in the middle of summer.
It could either be that Narmada Control Authority (NCA), controlled by the Union government, is twisting its arms, or Madhya Pradesh is releasing the water from ISP to generate power, and is not able to use the water, and it is inadvertently flowing to Gujarat.
The water level in the Indira Sagar Dam in the upstream Madhya Pradesh on April 16, 2019 was 253.8 metres, with 3,668 MCM in in live storage.
Indira Sagar works as feeder dam for SSP, which means that SSP could possibly get at least about 2,150 MCM more water between now and June 30, 2019, when the monsoon will herald new water year in Narmada Valley. Why then the drought hit farmers and thirsty people of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat are not getting their due share of water from SSP?
Last year on this date (April 16), SSP water level was at 105.81 metres, and it had no water in live storage and had already consumed around 700 MCM of dead storage water. The situation this year is much better, and yet farmers have suffered more this year.
Cotton production and yield this year, it is reported, is way below those of last year, ostensibly since there was less water! In fact, Gujarat cotton production and yield in 2018-19 is expected to be at its lowest in a decade, lower than even the previous year. This could have been avoided using the water available in SSP reservoir, but why was this not used?
A dry Narmada canal near Rapar village, Kutch
Why so much water in Sardar Sarovar in a deficit year?
The June-Sept 2018 South-West monsoon ended disastrously for Gujarat with statewide rainfall of 484.6 mm being 28% below normal, with rainfall in Kutch and Saurashtra being 316 mm, 34% below normal. Western Madhya Pradesh was much better off with monsoon rainfall being 837.6 mm, just 4% below normal. However, the Narmada Basin had 24% below normal rainfall.
But, going by Central Water Commission’s (CWC’s) weekly reservoir storage bulletin, the Indira Sagar reservoir was almost full by September 27, 2018, when water level in the dam reached 262.13 metres, with live storage of 9,601 MCM, equal to 99% of live storage capacity.
In fact, that storage on that date was by far the highest among all the 91 reservoirs of India’s largest reservoirs that CWC monitors, the nearest second one being far behind with live storage of 6,059 MCM in Pong reservoir. Indira Sagar got filled up to this record level, thanks to over 1,000 mm rainfall in Khandwa, Hoshangabad, Dindori, Jabalpur and Mandla districts of Madhya Pradesh, among others. All these districts had deficit rainfall, except Khandwa, which had 22% surplus rainfall.
NWDT award stipulation for water releases from MP
According to Clause-IX of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award, “Final Orders and Decisions”, in a 75% dependable water year (in simple terms, this means a normal year), annual regulated flow of 8.12 MAF (Million Acre Feet or 10,015 MCM) should be released to SSP, ex-Maheshwar Project. Further, the operation of Indira Sagar Project should be carried out in such a way to facilitate the regulation of Sardar Sarovar.
The amount of Narmada water that enters Gujarat (SSP) from Madhya Pradesh is measured and reported in Daily Status Repored on Narmada Control Authority (NCA) website. When this was calculated for the current water, we get following figures for the amount of water SSP received from MP in different months during current water year that started in July 2018.
This means that, out of 10,015.8 MCM water that Madhya Pradesh is supposed to release to Gujarat in a 75% dependable year, it has already released 7,871.23 MCM by April 16, 2019, and needs to release hardly 2,150 MCM more water by the end of current water year, i.e. by June 30, 2019. This it can easily do, since water in live storage at ISP on April 16, 2019 is 3,668 MCM.
But the obligation of releasing 10,015.8 MCM is in a 75% dependable year. If we go by the Indian Meteorological Department’s rainfall figure showing 24% below normal rains in the Narmada river basin in south-western monsoon, 96% below normal during October-December 2018, 74% below normal during January-February 2019 and 55% below normal during March 1, 2019 to April 16, 2019, this is certainly not a 75% dependable year.
Unfortunately, it is not clear, on what basis NCA decides the Madhya Pradesh obligation to release water to Gujarat in a given year, nor has NCA decided that for the current year. It remains a mystery as to why Madhya Pradesh is releasing so much water to Gujarat in this hugely deficit year.
However, once it is available to Gujarat, one expected Gujarat to use it prudently for the thirsty people and drought hit farmers, but Gujarat does not seem to be doing that.
Power Generation figures
The power generation figures at Narmada hydropower stations corroborate that, indeed, Sardar Sarovar Reservoir released more water through its 250 MW CHPH or Canal Head Power House (the 1200 MW River Bed Power House [RBPH] of SSP has generated no power since July 1, 2017, as there has been no surplus water in Narmada basin in the last two years to release through RBPH).
According to the figures from the Central Electricity Authority monthly generation figures, CHPH generated 593.53 MU (Million Units) power between July 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, which is 35.44% higher than the power generated at CHPH for the same period previous year.
Similarly, the 1000 MW ISP in upstream Madhya Pradesh generated 1,165.14 MU during the same period this year, which is huge 169% above the power generated in the same period here in previous year. The 520 MW Omkareshwar project in Madhya Pradesh on Narmada river downstream from ISP generated 545.1 MU power in the same period this year, which is 146% above the power generated in the same period last year.
This again corroborates that indeed ISP and Omkareshwar released much more water this year compared to last year.
For full article, click HERE on the SANDRP site