Surface irrigation has been one of the major issues of Ratanpur village in Vallabhipur taluka of Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district and several farmers of the area are facing a crisis to irrigate their crops. Similar is the case of Hanu Chohla, a farmer who grows cotton on his half a hectare of land which is a part of a 10-hectare holding belonging to a cooperative society of Bharwads. Bharwads is a cattle-herder community residing in the Ratnapur village. According to a report by Indian Express, there is no water flowing through the Narmada project distributary canals as a section of the Limbdi Branch Canal (LBC) has not been completed yet.
The report also stated that LBC is part of an extensive canal network to take the Narmada river waters to the parched agricultural lands of Gujarat’s Saurashtra region. The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) is currently implementing the Narmada project which aims to irrigate 18.45 lakh hectare of land in Gujarat. Though it has so far completed all the brand and sub-branch canal development work, it is the missing links in the form of distributaries which prevents water from irrigating the fields of farmers in the nearby locations.
These distributaries are conventional open canals and the SSNNL has opted for underground pipelines for sub-minors to reduce the barrier of land acquisition. While the distributaries are conventional open canals, the SSNNL has opted for underground pipelines for sub-minors to overcome the hurdles of land acquisition. Bhojpara, where a distributary touches some parts of a farm in Ratanpur, but problems remain. “They have laid the pipeline and even fitted a valve, but I haven’t still got the water”, complains another farmer Sutariya.
The SSNNL has been releasing water into the VBC for almost a decade now. “I have another two-hectare farm near a stream, into which the VBC water is released. I have been giving a single irrigation to my cotton crop for the last five years by drawing water from it using a diesel pump. My yields are now 20 quintals per hectare”, said another farmer named Limbani.
According to the sarpanch Bagadiya, who owns 20 hectares land, out of Mevasa’s registered population of 2,200, hardly 700 live in the village. The rest have migrated to Surat, as they cannot depend on rainfed agriculture. But the arrival of Narmada waters has initiated a trend of reverse migration.
These are among few of such stories highlighting the issue which is particularly salient in drought-prone, Gujarat. Despite numerous efforts over the years, the authorities are still finding it difficult to improve the regenerative capacity of its water bodies.