(This article appeared in Down to Earth,
Dec 15, 2002)
There's trouble brewing in Wankaner - a taluka about 50 kilometres
(km) from Rajkot city in district Rajkot, Gujarat - and its
not communal riots. Wankaner's farmers are an agitated lot,
and have been so for quite a while now. The basis of their ire
is severely depleted groundwater. The source of their ire is
the water crisis-driven city of Rajkot. The cause is a plan
the local administration came up with to plug that crisis.
Rajkot is built in a hard rock strata region, which makes groundwater
extraction well-nigh impossible. The city traditionally depended
on surface water resources to meet its water demands. The river
Aji, on whose banks the city stands, was a major source of water.
Four reservoirs - Bhadar, Aji-I and Nyari I and II - used to
be the source of municipal water. But lack of rains over a period
saw the reservoirs severely depleted, and the city plunged into
a perennial thirst.
So it was that the city's municipal corporation decided to survey
the surrounding area. They found water in the forest areas of
Jamudia village in Wankaner, at the easily plumbable depth of
21-24 metres (m). The Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board
(GWSSB) swung into action. It bored 120 wells in the area. In
3 months flat, it laid a 70-km pipeline to bring the water to
the city. The Jamudi Wadi area became the city's potable water
lifeline, supplying about a million gallons daily. As the water
began to be pumped out, villagers of Jamudi and other nearby
villages such as Palas and Virdi in the taluka began to face
a scarcity completely not of their own making.