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Kutch, devastated by 2001 earthquake is now a tourism hub. Read how the white desert emerged as economic powerhouse

From hosting migratory birds like flamingos to being home to incredible embroidery, Kutch has managed to turn obstacles into opportunities.

Kutch nahin dekha to kuch nahin dekha (If you’ve not seen Kutch, you’ve not seen anything)”, said superstar Amitabh Bachchan.

On 26th January 2001, a devastating earthquake measuring 7.7 in magnitude struck Gujarat. Kutch’s Bhachau was the epicentre. Thousands of people were killed and infrastructure worth crores turned into debris.

Eight months after it, Narendra Modi took over the reins from Keshubhai Patel as Chief Minister of Gujarat. He was a man on a mission.

He was going to turn this vast expanse of nothingness into a tourism hub. He wanted to bring water to the parched land of Kutch. And he wanted to make Kutch the next investment destination.

Narendra Modi turned desert full of nothingness into a festival. Literally

In 2006, Narendra Modi launched the Rann Utsav. The desert festival.

For a place which is extremely hot through the year with very little rainfall, winters are quite pleasant in Kutch. So from November to February the following year, the Rann of Kutch hosts the ‘Rann Utsav’. Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited, a Government of Gujarat company, makes impeccable arrangements for tourists.

It looks a bit like this.

Kutch offers history, culture and the colours of Gujarat. Did you know Dholavira in Kutch is one of the sites of Indus Valley Civilisation?

Parched land of Kutch now has Narmada water

As the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi launched the Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation (SAUNI) Yojana in September 2012. SAUNI word in Gujarati means “everyone’s”. Through SAUNI Yojana, 115 dams in the arid Saurashtra region will be filled by diverting flood waters which overflow from the Sardar Sarovar dam in South Gujarat, a couple of kilometres away.

A spider pipeline network of 1,125 km long was involved. In June this year, Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani announced phase two of SAUNI Yojana.

SAUNI Yojana will provide benefit of Narmada water to 737 villages of 11 districts and 31 cities in the Kutch-Saurashra region.

Kutch to have world’s largest renewable energy park

Yes, you read that right.

On his one-day visit to Kutch, PM Modi today virtually laid the foundation stone for the world’s largest hybrid renewable energy park at Khavda as well as a desalination plant in Mandvi along the Arabian Sea coast. The 30,000 MW hybrid renewable energy park will be the world’s largest with both windmills and solar panels being set up to generate power.

Gujarat has the highest number of approved solar parks. Did you know Gujarat alone has 2/3rd of India’s residential solar rooftop system? Gujarat is followed by Maharashtra.

Kutch farmers went from lack of irrigation water to exporting produce

There was a time when farmers in Kutch faced acute water shortage. Kutch is a no-cultivation zone. And while water continues to remain an expensive commodity in Kutch, the famers have prospered. Over 150 farmers in Gujarat have been cultivating dragonfruit, an exotic fruit native to South America. And while dragonfruits of Kutch are on plates across hotels in India, the pomegranates are being exported to other parts of the world.

Not just a pinch of salt

There’s probably a bit of Gujarat in everything you eat. Did you know the salt desert of Kutch contribute to 75% of total salt production in India?

Salt farming in Kutch (image courtesy: CNN.com)

Close to the Arabian Sea, major part of the desert is flooded by sea water for most part of the year. When the sea water recedes, the farmers begin to harvest the salt left behind by the evaporating sea water. Till next monsoon, the Agariyas, or the salt farmers, work in extreme conditions to bring you that swadanusar namak on your plates.

From hosting migratory birds like flamingos to being home to incredible embroidery, Kutch has managed to turn obstacles into opportunities.

And indeed. Kutch nahin dekha, to kuch nahin dekha.

 

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Nirwa Mehtahttps://medium.com/@nirwamehta
Politically incorrect. Author, Flawed But Fabulous.

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