|Rohan Kochhar, Director,
Public Policy, SKOCH Group
Innovation and common sense have been at the heart of ModiNomics. Project Sujalam Sufalam in Gujarat - which has converted what was once an arid and water stressed state facing repeated draughts into an oasis - is one such example. The fundamental requirement for water resource management in stressed regions with a limited monsoon period is that of storage, which would also act as a buffer through the non-monsoon period. Project Sujalam Sufalam achieves this by diverting water from surplus to deficit basins by following an integrated approach to augment water resources in water deficit and overexploited areas of the state. Project Sujalam Sufalam spreads an unlined canal of 332 km in length with a capacity of 2,000 cusecs of water through eight districts and crosses 21 rivers.
This has not only resulted in recharging the water table but has also provided direct and indirect irrigation benefits to thousands of farmers.
One may ask, what is so unique about this project?
Considering the arid topography, and in the absence of a lift irrigation system, any exercise in crisscrossing of canals would have resulted in high evaporation and water losses. Therefore, most of these canals were covered with solar panels to reduce evaporation losses and generate clean electricity, lighting up scores of villages along the canal route.
The result: irrigation benefits have been provided to over 70,000 hectares of land and 766 ponds have been replenished.
Sujalam Sufalam today, is an example of sustainable and efficient water resource development and management, that includes water conservation; inter-basin water transfer by strengthening and interlinking the existing canal system; participatory irrigation management and micro-irrigation.
The second phase of Project Sujalam Sufalam – Sujalam Sufalam Jal Abhiyan 2.0 ensures that the project is sustainable and there is effective planning for the usage water resources through periodic review as per the Water Policy of the state. It also ensures water governance, salinity and flood control. It has become a movement for re-galvanizing water resource management through the coherent efforts of government officers and the people.
People’s participation has been at the heart of the project, on the strength of which, the potential for creation of storage capacity and plugging wastages was recognized at the district level and plans were accordingly prepared.
The solution was originally envisaged to be founded on the principles of distributed water resource management. It sought to create surface water potential at distributed locations, allowing ground water to be recharged from several points, and to enhance the efficiency of the existing distribution system. This is how a multifaceted strategy became part of the solution. And it has delivered. This is ModiNomics at work!
Gujarat is one state that understood the importance of integrated water resource management and has made citizens the primary stakeholders. People’s participation made it possible to address local requirements and harness local strengths. District level plans were prepared for a large range of activities including deepening of water bodies and reservoirs, construction of new ponds, cleaning of canals, cleansing of drains, river rejuvenation, repairs or desilting of check dams, repairs of village ponds, repairs of pipelines to check water losses and cleaning of waterbodies. The project was undertaken with a public partnership of 40% in areas such as finance, machinery and labour.
As the scope of the implementation was targeted, small work projects could be undertaken in huge numbers. Machines were mostly local and hence, cost efficiency was high. Nearly 11,901 work projects were completed by deploying 63,972 excavators and 180,957 transportation machines with a cost of only Rs 1,860 lakh to the exchequer. Had this been done following conventional practices, the estimated cost would be upwards of Rs 6,000 lakh.Undertaking such a large number of concurrent and scattered work projects, their accounting and payment alongwith daily monitoring, required a massive intervention by the state. This was achieved in early 2019 within the short span of three months.
The project has ensured protective irrigation for Kharif season ensuring food security and livelihood opportunities for the agrarian masses in a state which has historically had scanty water resources, a short monsoon, and a varying rainfall pattern. More than 10 million people are now receiving the benefits of efficient water resource management in the state.
(Rohan Kochhar can be reached at email@example.com)
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