The proposed Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP), set to benefit 13 districts of Rajasthan through interlinking of three rivers, has taken a political twist following the Centre’s directive to stop all work in view of “lack of consent” by other States. The Congress government has termed the Centre’s interference undesirable and described it as crossing the line of cooperative federalism.
Rajasthan has been demanding the national project status for ERCP for quite some time, while pointing out that any delay in its implementation would lead to a phenomenal increase in its cost, which is at present estimated at ₹37,200 crore. The ambitious project stipulates transfer of excess water from the Chambal river basin to the regions facing water scarcity.
‘MP’s objections baseless’
Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said at a workshop on ERCP with the Congress leaders here that the objections raised by neighbouring Madhya Pradesh were baseless, as any of the two States could use water from its catchment area as well as 10% of the water received from the catchment areas of the other State, as per an agreement reached in the Inter-State Water Control Board.
Mr. Gehlot pointed out that Madhya Pradesh had itself built the Mohanpura dam on the Newaj river, a tributary of Parvati river, and the Kundalia dam on Kalisindh river, because of which about 2.65-lakh hectare irrigation area could be developed in that State. The no objection certificate was obtained by Madhya Pradesh after the construction of dams in 2017.
The Rajasthan government has maintained that Madhya Pradesh’s objection on ERCP was baseless, as it had got its own projects cleared as per the decision taken in an inter-State meeting in 2005. Rajasthan has also prepared the detailed project report in accordance with the decision and in compliance with the 2010 guidelines of the Central Water Commission.
The Union Jal Shakti Ministry’s Secretary has written to the Rajasthan Chief Secretary directing that all kinds of works on the ERCP should be stopped until the issues with Madhya Pradesh were resolved. Mr. Gehlot asked how the Centre could ask the State government to stop the work when the State was meeting the project cost and utilising the State’s share of water within its own borders.
“Water is a State subject. The Centre is adopting a discriminatory attitude towards Rajasthan and is trying to deprive people of the State of drinking water and farmers of irrigation waters”Ashok GehlotChief Minister, Rajasthan
“Water is a State subject. The Centre is adopting a discriminatory attitude towards Rajasthan and is trying to deprive people of the State of drinking water and farmers of irrigation waters,” Mr. Gehlot said. He also accused Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat of creating hindrances in the ERCP’s implementation.
The Chief Minister affirmed that the State government would continue the work with its limited resources, while pointing out that a budgetary announcement was made this year for constructing the Navnera-Bisalpur-Isarda link, Mahalpur barrage and Ramgarh barrage at a cost of ₹9,600 crore. This work would be started in 2022-23 and completed by 2027, Mr. Gehlot said.
With the issue of granting national project status to ERCP remaining unresolved, the Pradesh Congress Committee has decided to convene a meeting of party office-bearers from the 13 beneficiary districts here on July 6. AICC general secretary in charge of the State Ajay Maken will also attend the meeting.
ERCP, a 2018 poll promise
The national project status, if accorded, will fix the share of the Centre and the State in the expenditure in the ratio of 90:10 and facilitate solution to the water scarcity issue in eastern and south-eastern districts at least till 2051. The ruling Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betraying the people after promising to declare the ERCP a national project during his rallies before the 2018 Assembly election.
The districts which will benefit from the project are Jhalawar, Baran, Kota, Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Tonk, Jaipur, Karauli, Alwar, Bharatpur, Dausa and Dholpur, where a population of 3.5 crore resides. The national project status has been sought on the ground of the fact that the huge project cost could not be borne by the State government alone.
The ERCP, which will be a major initiative for interlinking of Parvati, Kali Sindh and Chambal rivers, is also expected to supply irrigation waters to an additional command area of 2 lakh hectares. It will facilitate restoration of dependable yield of the existing 26 major and medium irrigation projects en route – reduced to 30% – to their original status.