Located close the commercial city of Indore, Dewas saw rapid industrialisation in the 1970s and ’80s. Thanks to its favourable location, with a railhead and good access to raw materials, the town attracted several textile units, soybean processing plants and pharmaceutical plants. However, this boon turned sour in the following decades, from the 1990s onward, the town began to face increasing water shortages. The lack of a solution led to the closing down of perhaps 60 per cent of the 950-odd industrial units located here. “We saw labour losing their jobs and units going bankrupt, especially those that required large quantities of water,” says Ashok Khandeliya, president of the Dewas Industries Association.
By the turn of the millennium, major efforts were being planned to address the problem. In 2007, a project to pump water from the Narmada, 120 km away, was attempted. However, this failed because of engineering issues. In 2018, a new attempt was made, the Dewas Industrial Water Supply Project (DIWSP) was launched under a public-private partnership. Welspun, an infrastructure company, took up the challenge along with the Madhya Pradesh state government. Given the failure of the previous attempt, substantial engineering tweaks were first implemented.
The DIWSP involved linking the Narmada to the Kshipra, a river that flows through Dewas, which had gone dry because of overexploitation. The Narmada-Kshipra link was the first major river-linking project in the state, with the water supplying both industrial needs and drinking water for the town, as well as benefitting other population centres in the state.
The Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation and Welspun have an agreement on the volume of water to be supplied lasting till 2037, with the quantum of water increasing from 10 million litres per day (MLD) to 30 MLD over the years. “The pumping of water from the Narmada to the Kshipra was the first large-scale interlinking project we attempted,” says NVDA chief engineer Ajay Singhal. “The success of the project gave us the confidence to take up other such projects in the state.”
Welspun also set up a pumping station on the banks of the Kshipra, from where water is brought to a filtration and treatment plant in the Dewas industrial area. After being treated, water is supplied to industrial units, 24 hours a day and on a per unit basis. The availability of water has brought new life to the Dewas industrial area. “The focus on Dewas is back,” says Khandeliya. “The town as an industrial sector is back in the reckoning.”
The economic effects are immediately visible. “Post 2018, employment is up, with 10,000 new jobs being created and Dewas gaining export orders worth Rs 7,500 crore,” says Khandeliya, adding that new investments worth Rs 3,000 crore are in the pipeline. A number of production units that had been declared sick have also bounced back, only because of the availability of water.