The chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana may have come on a common platform to discuss the issue of effluents being released in the seasonal Ghaggar river but the issue of channelisation of the river, which is hanging fire for the past five years, also deserves the attention of both the states.
Every monsoon, the river is the cause of floods in the areas adjacent to Khanauri village in Sangrur district and downstream areas of Kaithal district in Haryana.
With an intention to check floods, a project for the construction of a 40-km embankment and widening of the Ghaggar was chalked out by Punjab in 2003 to increase the river’s capacity to hold 22,500 cusecs of flood water.
Being an issue related to both the states, the Central Water Commission (CWC) formed the Ghaggar Standing Committee (GSC) in May 2005.
Punjab channelised 22.5-km in the first phase from Khanauri to Makror Sahib but the second phase never took off as Haryana raised objections.
The work on the first phase was completed in April 2009 and thereafter, a detailed project report (DPR) for channelisation of 17.5-km in the second phase from Makror Sahib to Karial was submitted before the standing committee.
The cost of the second phase proposed in 2009 was Rs 135.63 crore which has increased with the passage of time.
About Rs 200 crore was spent on the first phase.
“Haryana started raising objections to the second phase despite having given its nod to the first phase,” said a top official of the irrigation department, adding that the project was in limbo for five years despite being repeatedly taken up by the GSC.
“Despite having agreed earlier, Haryana said Ghaggar in its area can’t hold 22,500 cusecs of water,” said the official.
With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA government coming to power, Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal sent a communication to union water resources minister Uma Bharti on July 4, 2014, for clearing the second phase.
A meeting was convened by the CWC on August 21 this year but it failed to produce any result as a Haryana official raised the issue of a pending special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court.
Giving directions on a writ petition in July 2013, the Punjab and Haryana high court gave directions to the GSC to complete its task as early as possible. Before its directions, the high court asked the states to take a decision at their level, suggesting a meeting of the chief secretaries of Punjab and Haryana. The chief secretaries referred the matter to the chief engineers of both the states but no decision could be taken and subsequently, both the states asked the court to intervene.
Sources in the Punjab irrigation department said Haryana kept raising objections despite court directions.
Residents of Moonak village, who had moved the high court, took the matter to the Supreme Court and filed an SLP seeking directions to complete the construction of the second phase in a time-bound manner.
Haryana’s plea was that the SLP was acting as an impediment in fixing the time limit for completion of its tasks by the GSC but the Punjab irrigation department contested the plea, saying the SLP had no bearing on the committee for considering approval of the project.