New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday urged Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel to supply piped water in her drought-hit state instead of transporting water by tankers.
At a meeting to take stock of the drought situation, the chief minister informed Modi that her government is supplying piped water to 77% households in the state, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said. Gujarat is among 11 states that declared a drought in the past year.
Despite rains that fell short for two years in a row, only 568 tankers are supplying water in remote areas of Gujarat thanks to the water grid in place, the statement added.
Additionally, the state informed Modi that due to water conservation efforts like construction of check dams and farm ponds, the state has created a water storage capacity of 42 billion cubic feet, benefitting over half a million hectare farmlands. The state further claimed that despite two years of drought, its crop production is 95% compared to normal output.
Monday’s meeting follows Modi meeting chief ministers of Jharkhand and Rajasthan over the weekend, and a string of meetings last week with chief ministers of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.
Last week, Supreme Court sharply criticised the Centre and states for lagging behind in drought relief work and for an “ostrich-like attitude” of denying reality.
Specifically, the court criticized Bihar, Gujarat and Haryana for their reluctance to acknowledge drought. The order said that Gujarat admitted to a drought towards the end of the hearing in April, and that Bihar and Haryana continue to be in denial.
The apex court further admonished Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat for delayed and faulty implementation of the National Food Security Act, more than two years after the law was passed, and asked states to provide to subsidised food to all households in drought-hit areas.
Large swathes of India are in the grip of drought after two successive years of below-average rainfall. The 2015 southwest monsoon, which waters over half of India’s crop area, was 14% short of normal last year, after a 12% deficit in 2014.
So far, 266 districts in 11 states have been declared drought-hit, the government told Parliament last month. A total of 330 million people in 10 states are affected, it had earlier informed the Supreme Court.