Jodhpur's future in jeopardy

"JODHPUR has a future only if the Indira Gandhi canal is brought till here," says J Venkateshwarlu, director of the Central Arid Zone Research Institute. Come it certainly will, but no one will vouch for the ability of the Jodhpur branch of the canal to deliver sufficient water to the thirsty city.

In an area where sandstorms make it difficult to maintain roads, it remains to be seen if the canal, which runs perpendicular to the usual wind direction in the Thar desert, will get clogged by sand or can be kept in working order. Even the chief engineer in charge of the canal, Bali Ram, says, "Large-scale afforestation is the only answer."

On completion, the 210-km canal, costing an estimated Rs 260 crore, will deliver about 250 million litres of water daily to the city for 300 days a year. The catch, according to canal watchers, is that there are places where the canal runs several metres below the level of the surrounding desert and the authorities will have a tough job checking the menace of clogging sand there. Already, there are stretches that get buried under sand.

In response to these concerns, Bali Ram says there are plans for afforestation and that the canal is supposed to deliver water only for 10 months in the year, leaving two months for maintenance.