As the deadlock between the Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir governments over the 206-MW Shahpur Kandi dam project continues, the union secretary for water resources has called the chief secretaries of the two states to a meeting next week to resolve the matter.
In an attempt to clear the project, the Punjab government had insisted on a chief secretary level meeting, which was fixed on April 21, but the J&K government cancelled it. Earlier, the chief ministers of the two states were supposed to meet on April 15, but even this meeting was cancelled by the government of the neighbouring state. Subsequently, Punjab approached the Central Water Commission.
J&K is reportedly reluctant to clear the project as it feels Punjab will not stick to a 1979 agreement arrived at between the two states on sharing of water and power generated from Ranjit Sagar dam. It claims that Punjab, which never fulfilled the agreement, will not go by the arrangement worked out by the two states in 1979 in view of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004.
Contrary to J&K's claims, Punjab has clarified that it is ready to fulfil all the promises and that the 2004 Act will have no bearing on the 1979 agreement. It has said that the Act is only applicable to non-riparian states like Haryana and Rajasthan, which get water from Punjab.
The Shahpur Kandi project, being built downstream of Ranjit Sagar dam, uses the water of Ravi river, which flows downstream in Punjab from J&K.
Punjab has agreed to fulfil the condition of the 1979 agreement, by which 20% power from Ranjit Sagar dam out of the total production from installed capacity of 600 MW will go to J&K.
Another issue that will be discussed in the chief secretary level meeting called by the Centre is J&K's reluctance to part with 1,532 acres of land for building a reservoir of the dam. J&K had agreed to give this land, as per the 1979 agreement. While Punjab has provided jobs to 767 oustees, the cases of 125 oustees are with J&K for verification.
The total cost of the project is Rs 2,287 crore, out of which the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd will contribute 71.39% and the state irrigation department 28.61%. The project got clearance in 2009 as a "project of national importance" with the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Much delayed, much costlier
The project was conceived in the late 1970s when its total estimated cost was just Rs 70 crore. The foundation for Ranjit Sagar dam, of which Shahpur Kandi is a part, was laid in 1982 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on the same day the foundation stone of Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal was laid at Kapuri. Ranjit Sagar dam was completed at a cost of Rs 6,800 crore in 1998, but remained underutilised as the Shahpur Kandi project never took off. Experts say if the loss of power generation due to delays is calculated, it would run into thousands of crores.