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How Gujarat Government Tackled Water Shortage


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In 1999, the state government began an initiative that has fuelled a lot of this change: It began to build check dams on rivers flowing through Gujarat. “A check dam is a small barrier built across the direction of water flow on shallow rivers and streams to harvest water,” explains Raval. These structures capture excess water during the monsoon in a small catchment area behind them and force the impounded water to seep into the ground, he says.

The initiative that began about 10 years ago gained currency in the Modi administration, when about 35,000 check dams were constructed in Saurashtra and about 100,000 in the rest of the state. In addition, about 130,000 farm ponds were created and a huge sandbag initiative was undertaken to stop soil erosion and salination.

As a result of the multi-pronged strategy, groundwater levels began to rise quickly, says Rajubhai Ashoter, a farmer near Amreli. “Earlier we used to get water at 400, sometimes 500ft underground. Now, we get it at 80-90ft.”

A survey of the region by the Geological Survey of India has found that the average water table has risen by about 4m in Saurashtra, says Raval. “And as a result, agricultural production has undergone a huge transformation.”

Farmers say they are now able to grow three crops in a year. “Earlier we used to be happy if we could get a winter crop after the monsoon produce. Now, I grow something or the other in the summer as well. We used to have drought for seven years out of 10. Now, see this,” says Ashoter, looking at his field where he has planted a winter crop of Bt (or genetically modified) cotton and wheat.

“The average area under cultivation has gone up by about 10,00,000ha on an average,” says Raval. “The agricultural sales policy has been streamlined as well, so of course the farmers are prospering now.”

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Our main two rivers Satluj and Beas are already dammed, so the check dams wouldn't work too well with he small trickle that now comes.


The deputation will also impress upon the Prime Minister to release Rs 10,000 crore for the permanent solution of floods in Punjab. A demand to this effect had already been submitted to the 12th Finance Commission by SAD (Longowal) when it visited Punjab about a month ago. Punjab needs this amount for constructing check-dams in the state, taming of Ghaggar, and to dig the ponds in villages.

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