Political Twist Over National Project Status For ERCP
Following the Centre’s directive to stop all work in view of “lack of consent” by other States, the proposed Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP), set to benefit 13 districts of Rajasthan via interlinking of 3 rivers Parvati, Kali Sindh and Chambal rivers, has taken a political twist. The ERCP has become a flashpoint between the state & the Centre as the former is demanding that the Centre declare it a national project. The Centre’s interference has been termed undesirable & described it as crossing the line of cooperative federalism by the Congress government. The demand of the national project status for ERCP has been being done by Rajasthan for quite some time, while any procrastination in its implementation would lead to a phenomenal shoot up in its cost, which is currently estimated at ₹37,200 crore.
The ERCP aims to harvest surplus water available during the rainy season in rivers in southern Rajasthan such as Chambal & its tributaries including Parvati, Kalisindh, Kunnu & utilize this water in south-eastern districts of the state where there is a paucity of water for irrigation & drinking. Rajasthan having the largest state of India with a geographical area of 342.52 lakh hectares which amount to 10.4 % of the entire country, holds only 1.16 % of India’s surface water & 1.72 per cent of groundwater. Among the state’s water bodies, only the Chambal river basin possess surplus water but this water can’t be tapped directly due to the area around the Kota barrage is designated as a crocodile sanctuary. Through the help of diversion structures, intra-basin water transfers, linking channels & construction of pumping main feeder channels, the ERCP aims to create a network of water channels which will cover 23.67 % area of Rajasthan along with 41.13 % population of the state.
In the budget of 2017-18, it was cited that the ERCP would help fulfil the long-term irrigation & drinking water needs of 13 districts-Jhalawar, Baran, Dausa, Kota, Dholpur, Sawai Madhopur, Ajmer, Bundi, Tonk, Jaipur, Karauli, Bharatpur & Alwar. Subsequently, the Central Water Commission approved the project in 2017. In her 2017-18 budget speech, a proposal was sent to the centre to declare the ERCP as a project having national importance. Since then, it’s been a consistent demand of subsequent governments in Rajasthan across party lines. The national project status, if accorded, will fix the share of the Centre & the State in the expenditure in the ratio of 90:10 & facilitate solution to the water scarcity issue in eastern & south-eastern districts at least till 2051. The ERCP can be completed in 10 years on getting national status & this would solve the drinking water problem of 40 % of the population. During the meetings in Jaipur & Ajmer in 2018, the PM had assured to give national project status to the ERCP, but no work has been done in this direction in the last four years & stalemates are being created in its execution.
Work on ERCP has been begun in Kota district. The project’s cost is worth around Rs 600-650 crore. Currently, the state is bearing all the costs. The project will use pipes, canals, & tunnels to meet the water requirement of the 13 districts. Once the ERCP is accomplished, water from the Chambal river & its tributaries can be harvested & stored in dams for 100 days every year. Throughout the year, this water can be used. 3,500 million cubic meter (MCM) is estimated to be utilised by the project, which is the overall requirement of these 13 districts. The duration of the project completion was estimated in 10 years. It was initially proposed to be finished in three phases between 2017 & 2023.
The ERCP, which will be a major initiative for interlinking of 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. Water is a State subject. The Centre should prevent itself from adopting a discriminatory attitude towards Rajasthan & try to help people of the State of drinking water & farmers of irrigation waters. However. The CM 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 & Ramgarh barrage at a cost of ₹9,600 crore. This work would be started in 2022-23 and completed by 2027.