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June 15, 2003

Non-Sustainable Development –GUJARAT

Ahmedabad: Standing at the number four among all states of India in its growth percentage at present and number one in its urbanized population percentage, Gujarat has depleted at least 28% of its underground water, largely because of its non-sustainable development policy, according to a conclusion drawn by a new study released by the Ahmedabad based Centre for Development Alternatives (CDA).

Scholar Indira Hirway of CDA has asserted that last two decades of development in the state has left much to be desired ? because of the faulty water distribution management, chaotic urbanization and degradation of environmental resources. In one sentence it can be called the consequence of a ?non-sustainable development? policy!

Substantiating the conclusions, the 40-page paper says that growth rate in Gujarat of ?80s was 5% and in the ?90s it was 6.5%, but at the same time its agrarian growth in both the decades fell to less than 1%! This was exactly what happened in quite a few developing countries which followed a policy lacking sustainable development. Urbanization process in the state stood at 38% - quite higher than an all India average of 25%.

Despite all of Gujarat?s hallowed tradition of keeping tight account of every single source,
politicians here displayed a callous policy of not accounting for such a heavy depletion and degradation of its environmental resources, study asserts.

Waters of its seven South and Central Gujarat rivers including its rich Narmada and Mahi, flowing into the Bay of Khambhat all the twelve months, unlike the dry rivers of Saurashtra and Kutch, carry so much industrial pollution that the state government?s huge Rs 47,000 crore Kalpasar sweet water lake and a Highway across the Bay project officials feel failed to make those waters original sweet- devoid of pollution!

At least 50% of its 18,000 villages face a terminal scarcity of drinking water, with 4000 of them getting water through the government hired tankers- that fetch water to these villages from long distance at most irregular intervals, leaving the village folk women walking far away here and there to get a bucket of water under 43-46 degree Celsius hot sun!

The study reminds the state policy makers that only 3 to 5 percent of the total water supply go for domestic and drinking purpose and only 5-6% of the state?s total revenue income is spent on water supply. But a total of 87% of underground water source has turned into ?non-white? ? making it most unsafe for drinking. All the underground water in at least two districts-
North Gujarat and Amreli- have become fluoride infected, causing various diseases rampant in these areas. Politically, both the Congress and BJP rulers have displayed criminal negligence of following a correct and far sighted policy for the last two decades.

Administratively, the state formed its water supply and sewerage board long ago to supply water, heavily subsidized or free to all ! No grassroots rural or urban people?s cooperation was sought, no water conservation, recycling or recharging was attempted for many years. Whatever they have begun now appears quite half-hearted in this field.

Urban area has most unequal kind of distribution of their scarce resources: a few high-rise complexes in the cities like Ahmedabad or Vadodara or Surat get 24-hour non-restricted water through their private tube wells, while large areas of these cities suffer severe crunch, rationing or irregular supply.

A thriving trade worth thousands of crores of rupees in water pouches, bottles has developed, with much of its quality in question. Welfare supply by the government and non-existence of people?s participation in conserving or recharging the rain water has cost the government a lot of amount. According to the estimates put by this study, no less than Rs 1 lakh 20 thousand crore of cost was incurred by the government within last two decades behind such a welfare supply.

Nobody was surprised by a recent declaration made by the water supply minister Narottam Patel that Gujarat river water supply schemes had no more than just 3-month supply of drinking water at present. It remains anybody?s guess what the people would do after three months if rains fail to quench their thirst this year!



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