Modi inaugurates Phase-1 of Rs12,000-cr Saurashtra irrigation project

Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated the first phase of the Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojna (or SAUNI), - a Rs 12,000-crore project that aims to solve the water problems of a parched Saurashtra.

In the first phase, around 10 dams and reservoirs in Jamnagar, Rajkot and Morbi will be filled with water from Narmada River.

Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat had launched the scheme in 2012. The ambitious project, which involves filling up 115 dams in the region with excess water from the Sardar Sarovar dam, is seen as a way to solve Saurashtra's irrigation and drinking water problems.

The project, once completed, will help irrigate nearly 10,22,589 acres of farmland using Narmada water.

The project also involves laying 1,125-km network of pipelines, which will carry water from the Narmada to these dams, and irrigate 4.13 lakh hectares land.

The Sauni project is not apart from the Narmada project but it proposes to use one million acre feet (1 MAFT) of flood waters of the Narmada for irrigation and drinking water purposes in Saurashtra.

Unlike traditional irrigation projects, Sauni is technically a 'linking' project, where the water will be filled in irrigation dams that are already equipped with canal network. This network of canals will then help channel water into farms.

Also, Sauni project involves a network of pipes to channel water to the reservoirs instead of the conventional open canals. The pipelines in the Sauni project are also underground, which does away with the need for land acquisition.

The pipes are of huge with 3 m to 500 mm dimension. The pumping stations are being constructed on government land.

The Sauni project aims at diverting the excess floodwater from Sardar Sarovar Dam to fill up 115 dams of the water-scarce Saurashtra region through a network of canals and pipelines.

The prime minister pressed a button at the Aji-3 dam to open Gate 2, 3 and 4 to start the process of releasing the water that would fill up Aji-4 dam. Simultaneously, water would also be pumped into Uund-4 reservoir.

The project has four trunk pipelines – namely Link 1, 2, 3 and 4. These will take water to the 115 dams in Saurashtra's 11 districts. Link 1, which is 180 km long, will start from the Machhu II dam in Morbi district. It will carry water across Morbi, Jamnagar and Devbhoomi Dwarka districts to 30 dams.

Link 2 (253 km) offtakes from Limdi Bhogavo II dam in Surendrangar, and lands in Raydi dam in Khambha taluka of Amreli district. It will supply water to 17 dams.

Link 3 (245 km) starts from Dholi Dhaja dam in Surendranagar and ends at Venu I dam in Upleta taluka of Rajkot district. It will fill 28 dams along its length.

Link 4 will start from Limdi Bhogavo II dam and end at Hiran II dam in Talala taluka of Gir Somnath district.

Water under the SAUNI project will be pumped by motors, which could mean a monthly electricity bill of Rs7.56 crore for the irrigation department, says an Indian Express report.

This is assuming that the 84,000 kVA motors are run at full load. While the government is unlikely to charge farmers extra for the water, the fact that it is being pumped by motors may make the project expensive.