The Gujarat government stopped supply of water to farmers for irrigation from Sardar Sarovar Dam today, reserving the remaining stock for drinking purposes as the state is staring at an acute water shortage this summer.
The water level of the dam, considered to be the lifeline of Gujarat, stood at 105.50 meters today, near the "critical storage level", an official of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) said.
"As announced earlier, we have stopped suppling water for irrigation from Sardar Sarovar Dam from today," Minister of State for Irrigation and Water Supply Parbat Patel told reporters in Gandhinagar.
"We have kept the remaining water stock reserved for drinking purposes. We have made arrangements to ensure that the entire state will get drinking water till the arrival of monsoon and no region will face water scarcity," Patel said.
SSNNL had informed farmers in January that it will stop supply of water for irrigation after March 15. It had also advised farmers not to sow summer crops if they are solely dependent on Sardar Sarovar Dam for irrigation.
"The decision not to supply water for irrigation has been taken for ensuring smooth supply of drinking water to over 10,000 villages and 135 towns in the state till the onset of monsoon which is expected in July," the official said.
Chief minister Vijay Rupani had also appealed farmers not to sow summer crops.
"The state government has to provide water for drinking purposes, and that is the priority," the SSNNL official, who didn't want to be named, said.
The Sardar Sarovar Reservoir Regulation Committee (SSRRC) had met on January 10 and allotted 4.7 million acre feet (MAF) of water to Gujarat, against the nine million MAF allotted last year, due to deficient rainfall in catchment areas of the Narmada in Madhya Pradesh.
On December 1, 2017 the level of water in Sardar Sarovar Dam stood at 124.02 meters.
It plunged to 105.50 meters within three and a half months. As the water level fell to an alarmingly low level, the Gujarat government had sought permission from the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to use the river water through a special Irrigation Bypass Tunnel (IBPT).
The permission was granted. The state started using `dead water stock' of the dam for meeting demands of drinking water and irrigation. However, from today, no water will be supplied for irrigation.
The water in the reservoir was spread across 214 km during monsoon, while currently it stretches for less than 90 km. The government has also asked farmers not to lift water illegally from Narmada canals.