Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the first phase of the SAUNI yojana in Gujarat today. Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojna, or SAUNI, is a project that aims to solve the water problems of a parched Saurashtra. In 2012, Modi who was at that time the chief minister of Gujarat, had launched the scheme. The Rs 12,000 crore ambitious project involves filling up 115 dams in the region with excess water from the Sardar Sarovar dam. It is a dream scheme of Modi who sees it as a way to solve Saurashtra’s irrigation and drinking water problems.
In the first phase, around 10 dams and reservoirs of Jamnagar, Rajkot and Morbi will be filled with water from Narmada river. It is being claimed that nearly 10,22,589 acres of farming land would benefit once the project is completed. The entire project involves laying a 1,125-km network of pipelines, says an Indian Express report. These pipelines will carry the Narmada water to these dams, and irrigate 4.13 lakh hectares land.
What is the SAUNI Yojana?
The project is not a part of the Narmada project but is based on it. 1 MAFT (million acre feet) flood water has been allotted to Saurashtra by the state government and this water will be pumped to major reservoirs in the region under the SAUNI Yojna. Unlike traditional irrigation projects, SAUNI is technically a ‘linking’ project, where the water will be filled in irrigation dams that are already equipped with canal network. This network of canals will then help channel water into farms.
Also SAUNI project involves making pipe canals instead of the conventional open canals. This was decided on after the government faced land acquisition problems during the Narmada dam project. The pipelines in the SAUNI project are underground, which means that no land needs to be acquired. The pipes are huge of diameter 3 m to 500 mm. The pumping stations are being constructed on the government land.
The project has four trunk pipelines – namely Link 1, 2, 3 and 4. These will take water to the 115 dams in Saurashtra’s 11 districts. Link 1, which is 180 km long, will start from the Machhu II dam in Morbi district. It will cut across Morbi, Jamnagar and Devbhoomi Dwarka districts, and will take water to 30 dams.
Link 2 (253 km) offtakes from Limdi Bhogavo II dam in Surendrangar, and lands in Raydi dam in Khambha taluka of Amreli district. It will supply water to 17 dams.
Link 3 (245 km) starts from Dholi Dhaja dam in Surendranagar and ends at Venu I dam in Upleta taluka of Rajkot district. It will fill 28 dams along its length. Finally, Link 4 will start from Limdi Bhogavo II dam and end at Hiran II dam in Talala taluka of Gir Somnath district.
Water under the SAUNI project will be pumped by motors, which could mean a monthly electricity bill of Rs 7.56 crore for the irrigation department, says an Indian Express report. This is assuming that the 84,000 kVA motors are run at full load. While the government is unlikely to charge farmers extra for the water, the fact that it is being pumped by motors may make the project expensive.