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    With indictments coming from virtually every side, India Together reviews the latest financing situation of the Sardar Sarovar dam project in Gujarat.
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    August 2002: Yet another indictment of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river came in 2001 from the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC), a state government commission. In its report of March last year, the GEC says,

    "A glance at the map of the command area of the (Narmada) project clearly indicates that, large areas of water deficit regions would not get any water from the Narmada Project. As many as 35 out of 53 talukas having dark or over exploited status of ground water development, are outside the command of the Narmada Project. As a matter of fact, Narmada waters will serve only 22% of the cultivable land in the 53 talukas where ground water is over exploited".

    The commission went on to observe that the problem of fast declining quantity and quality of the ground water in the state, as well those of water logging and salinity in the command areas of the irrigation projects would become severe with time." This is probably the most stinging criticism leveled at the Gujarat Government from a state government authority, considering the level of public opinion polarization that the Narmada projects and Andolan confront in Gujarat.

    Okay, so an ecological commission could not see the grand economics of the project. But no greater mercy was shown by the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for the year ended on March 31, 2001. The report stated that state's fiscal position is deteriorating and indicted the GoG owned Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) for spending a whopping 22 percentage of total expenditure incurred over the project towards interest charges and servicing debt liabilities.

    The credit rating agency CRISIL recently downgraded SSNNL bonds on account of the suspected inability of the corporation to generate sufficient revenue to meet its short-term and mid-term debt servicing obligations.

    To all of that, add these. The Cost of dam has risen from Rs. 6406 crore (1988) to over Rs.25,000 crore (2000), in government estimates. Many base costs are not included in such estimates. If all costs are computed, the cost of the dam will not be less than Rs. 50,000 crore.

    It's little wonder that around 85 to 90% of the total irrigation budget of Gujarat state plan is given to one single dam - Sardar Sarovar. This has resulted in the serious neglect of other less costly, time-saving and efficient options. Furthermore, the Gujarat government's attempts to raise money in the bond market, is in trouble due to the downgraded of SSNNL's bonds. In the meantime, the government has persuaded the state cooperative banks to invest in SSNNL to the tune of Rs 300 crores.

    At the grassroots, many of the touted beneficiaries have decided to buy their own insurance. Local governance. One of the objectives of the dam is to address water-scarcity of the drought prone areas, particularly Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. During the drought in 2000 and 2001, the villages like Rajsamandhiala (Rajkot) had ample water in the lakes and wells. This was possible due to sustained water-harvesting efforts for over 4 years and scientific water management plan.

    From 1996 onwards, there has been a Saurashtra level campaign for well-recharging, by which several hundred thousand wells have been recharged. Saurashtra has around 7,00,000 wells. Even if one-third of them are recharged for about five years, the water table of entire Saurashtra will rise. As the state government expends crores of rupees on the unviable and mammoth Sardar Sarovar dam, villagers and town based groups are rejuvenating old tanks and undertaking watershed development.

    India Together
    August 2002

    Material from a recent booklet authored by Sanjay Sangvai on the Narmada Valley development project was used for this report