Water returns to Saurashtra, farmers follow

November 8th, 2008 - 11:54 am ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Nov 8 (IANS) It’s a happy homecoming for the farmers of Saurashtra. Faced with scarcity of water they left their land and profession. But today, thanks to a new water management system employed by the state government, a reverse migration is in progress.”I left with my family for Surat in 2002. My land was fallow for lack of water. My two sons began earning Rs.15,000 at a diamond polishing factory. I returned early this year after seeing plenty of water in the check dams in the region,” says Kanubahi Rambhai Suva, 62, of Khaki Jalia village.

He owns 15 bighas (about nine acres) of land in Upleta taluka (sub district) of Rajkot district in the parched Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Upleta is on the banks of the Moj river 300 km from here.

Today Suva has harvested 675 kg of genetically modified Bt cotton, fetching him Rs.15,000 per bigha. After cotton he plans to sow wheat. His earning works out to Rs.150,000 per annum.

Suva is one of the farmers who have set the trend of reverse migration.

Along with Suva, 25 families had left Khaki Jalia village. Except for five families all are back in their native village.

As a result of water management there has been a change in the lifestyle of the farmers, says Dhavnat K. Suva of Kakhi Jalia. “Today most of us have motorcycles and are prosperous. You can see the prosperity. I was cultivating sugarcane 20 years ago. Water scarcity made me venture into business. Now I am back to my old cultivation and am happy.”

There are 30,000 small check dams and 300 large ones built in Saurashtra.

Today there are 35 check dams, including a couple of large ones, on the Moj river’s 50 km stretch. Check dams store water throughout the year and help in irrigation when rains fail.

“Earlier it was very difficult getting water for even one crop in a year. Now we have three crops,” says farmer Maldebhai Bodar of Sevantara village who owns 50 bighas of land.

These check dams help irrigate 600 hectares directly and 1,000 hectares indirectly in a 4-km radius, Jayanti Patel of Kolki village of Upleta taluka said.

In 2001, 12,000 check dams were built in Gujarat. Today there are over 100,000 small and big check dams, with the irrigation department and other government agencies playing a major role in their construction.

Of 5,600 villages in Saurashtra, 3,000 villages have small and medium check dams while there are 300 large check dams in the region.

“Three hundred more check dams will be built on big rivers in Saurashtra at a cost of Rs.15 million by 2009 end,” said Irrigation and Urban Housing Minister Nitin Patel.

“Work on 60 big check dams will begin after Diwali on 80:20 basis (80 percent cost to be incurred by the state government),” Patel had told IANS.

Saurashtra has 70 rivers. In 30 of them check dams have been constructed. Now 3,000 villages have 30,000 check dams. Of the seven districts of Saurashtra, most check dams are in Jamnagar followed by Bhavnagar, Amreli, Junagadh, Rajkot and Porbandar.

Surendranagar is covered by the Sujalam Sufalam scheme that brings in water from the river Narmada. Yet, it has 71 check dams.

“It is not enough if good rains are there. What is required is availability of water at the right time. During 1994-95 there was more rain than today, yet the crop output has gone up now,” said former agriculture minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama during whose tenure the maximum check dams were built.

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