Gujarat’s AAP attacks state govt for sudden release of water from Sardar Sarovar dam

Gujarat’s Aam Aadmi Party general secretary Sagar Rabari Tuesday questioned the state government for increasingly reducing the water release from Sardar Sarovar dam in the first week of September, despite the growing demand for water by farmers.

Rabari’s reaction comes in the wake of the flooding of several low-lying areas in the Bharuch district following heavy rain in the state and allegedly due to the sudden release of water from the Sardar Sarovar dam. As of Monday, 12,000 people from eight districts were evacuated to safety.

Rabari blamed the government for creating a man-made disaster so as to “fawn over” one person (Prime Minister Narendra Modi). Opposition parties Congress and AAP in Gujarat, have alleged that water was held back in order to “please” PM Modi on his birthday, September 17.

Floodgates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam were opened on Saturday (September 16) in a first this monsoon season. The gates were opened to a height of 5.60 metres for a safe rise to the full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.68 metres as the dam currently stands at 137.32 metres.

Rabari pointed out that the Narmada Control Authority, (NCA), which publishes daily reports on the status of the nearly 200 dams across the state by around 10 am, had stopped publishing the reports after September 6, despite updating the website last on September 16.

Lambasting the opacity around data, Rabari said, “…there is no data available on the website since after September 6, while it’s mentioned on the website, ‘site updated’ last on September 16, which means they last updated the website on September 16 but did not upload the data regarding dams and the government intentionally hid this data so that they can make one person happy by adopting sycophant (chaplusi) methods.”

The authorised NCA data of September 6 notes 133.98 metres as the water level (at Sardar Sarovar Dam) with 4,295 million cubic metres of water stored, making the reservoir 75 per cent full.

“How much of the remaining 25% was filled subsequently? That data is neither available on the website nor has BJP minister Rushikesh Patel (Gujarat government spokesperson) addressed this yesterday. If you see August data, the Sardar Sarovar dam had 130.13 metres of water level with 3,252 million cubic metres of water stored, comprising 57 per cent of the storage capacity. Between September 1 and 6, water storage increased from 71-75 per cent,” the AAP leader pointed out.

Rabari criticised the state’s BJP government for not announcing rainfall figures. “We are only being told ‘we had a lot of rainfall’, but not how many millimetres of rainfall occurred in the Narmada catchment area. Only Rushikeshbhai and God know the storage capacity of Sardar Sarovar as of September 15,” Rabari said.

With farmers hardpressed for irrigation water, Rabari pointed out that the outflow discharge from the dam decreased – to 865.8 cubic metres per second (cumec) on September 1, as against 948.6 cumec released on August 1.

Saying that farmers needed water the most on August 31, Rabari alleged, “To please the dear leader, water serving lakhs of Gujarat farmers, were depleted from canals to start filling up the dam”. “This increase in dam-stored water from 71% to 75% (between September 1-6) is the water stolen from what was rightfully the farmers’ water. Look at the pattern, the outflow discharge is decreasing and not increasing as per the need,” said Rabari, while highlighting that the outflow discharge from the dam further reduced on September 6, compared to September 1, to 778.9 cumec.

Seeking an account from the state government on its inaction in preventing the floods, Rabari further asked what the state government did for 12 hours prior to the water from Omkareshwar dam on the Narmada river reaching Sardar Sarovar dam, and also what the state government did in the past one-and-half days in the event of heavy rainfall.

Rabari also demanded an explanation as to why the water release was not planned for drier areas in the state.

“According to the government, it takes 8-12 hours for the water from Omkareshwar dam to reach Sardar Sarovar dam. Then what was the government doing for these 12 hours? The government shall have to give an account of these 12 hours to Gujarat’s public. If you could not arrange for the flow of the incoming water (from Omkareshwar), what did you do for 12 hours?” he asked.

Rabari asked why the government remained passive for the crucial 36 hours when the government knew that there was heavy rain in the highlands, and that water was being released from Omkareshwar those 36 hours.

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The AAP leader mentioned that minister Rushikesh Patel has not clarified how much water was released into canals and how much into rivers such as Sabarmati, Banas, Saraswati, and Rupen, where there was no rain until September 15.

“Why wasn’t the water released in these dry areas? Until yesterday, several talukas of Bhavanagar such as Mahuva, Gariadhar, Palitana, Talaja and several talukas of Amreli had not received rainfall. Irrigation water has dried up. Why haven’t the lakes and check dams been filled here under Sauni Yojana? This entire mismanagement is certainly not a natural disaster but is fully a man-made disaster to fawn over one person. To suck up to one person, lakhs of peoples’ lives have been endangered,” Rabari said.

On Sunday morning (September 17), Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel flew to Kevadiya, the site of the Narmada dam in the Narmada district in south Gujarat, to welcome the river waters as part of ‘Narmada jal na Vadhamana’. The day also marked PM Modi’s 73rd birthday.