People say next world war will be fought for water. It looks hypothetical. But for sure upcoming assembly elections in eastern Rajasthan is going to be contested on water. The main agenda is Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP), which has been planned to quench thirst of more than 3.5 crore people living across 13 districts. But the project is yet to take a shape while Congress government in state and BJP government in centre are busy hurling brickbats and allegations on each other for the delay of the project. People are waiting for last six years for water while project is stuck in the quagmire of petty politics around it.
The project was envisaged by Raje government, which had prepared a detailed project report (DPR) of Rs 40,000 crore. Had the project been prepared keeping in mind 75% dependability, the Rajasthan government would have to spend 40% which is Rs 16,000 crore. Under the project eastern Rajasthan was to get 2800 McM of water.
ERCP aims at intra-basin transfer of water within the Chambal Basin by utilising surplus monsoon water available in Kalisindh, Parvati, Mej and Chakan sub-basins and diverting it into water deficit sub-basins of Banas, Gambhiri, Banganga and Parbati to provide drinking and industrial water to 13 districts of eastern Rajasthan.
The project also envisages irrigation in about 2.82 lakh hectare area (new culturable command area of 2,02,498 hectare and stabilisation of irrigation in 80,000 hectare).
The Development So Far
The project was prepared by Vasundhara Raje government in 2017. The state government submitted DPR to Central Water Commission (CWC) in November, 2017 for techno-economic appraisal. However, appraisal of the project could not move further as the project is planned on 50% dependable yield against the established norm of 75% dependability. Raje government spend Rs 10,000 crore on the project while the Gehlot government so far has spent Rs 700 crore besides announcing another 13,800 crore for the project.
Politics over Water
The union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who belongs to Rajasthan blamed the state government for slackness and in competence for not getting the project included in the National Projects Scheme (NPS).
Shekhawat said that the state government didn't bother to get the investment clearance, environment clearance and technical approval necessary for the project to be included in the NPS.
“I challenge chief minister Ashok Gehlot, his competent minister or any official for an open debate on ERCP. Congress is just playing politics on the project misleading people by unnecessarily blaming central government for the project,” Shekhawat said.
On the other hand Rajasthan chief minister blamed Shekhawat for not including the project in the NPS. He said that Shekhawat, despite hailing from Rajasthan, didn't bother to do service to fellow people of the state.
“I have written several letters to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi – letters dated February 6, 2020, July 9, 2020, July 14, 2020, July 20, 2020, October 26, 2020 and January 27, 2021 – requesting him to include the project in NPS,” he said.
He said that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has forgotten what he had promised about ERCP during an election rally in Ajmer in 2019.
“He was affirmative while promising about ERCP in the Ajmer rally. I have tried several times to remind him. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, who is Jal Shakti minister, should have talked to the Prime Minister about it. Had Shekhawat requested Prime Minister about including it in NPS, PM would not have refused,” Gehlot blames.
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