Jammu and Kashmir on Friday flatly turned down Punjab’s plea to let it resume the construction at the Shahpur Kandi dam site, which was stopped last week.
In Friday’s secretary-level meeting in Srinagar, J&K categorically asked Punjab to guarantee that a fresh agreement was signed in which the Centre was also involved and accept that the 1979 agreement didn’t exist. The next meeting will be held in a week.
Two top officials of Punjab – irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu and chief engineer Harvinder Singh rushed to the neighbouring state on Thursday to work out a solution so that the construction is resumed.
J&K irrigation secretary Pawan Kotwal said, “Shahpur Kandi barrage (dam) is part of the Thein dam (Ranjit Sagar dam) project, which is built over 61% of J&K’s land. It was initially a Punjab-J&K joint venture but Punjab was to fulfil certain promises such as 20% power of 120 megawatts to our state from the Thein dam and share of water from the Shahpur Kandi barrage, which never materialised,” adding that in the past 35 years since the agreement was signed, the scenario had completely changed and things needed to be re-looked from the start.
“Moreover, the termination of the agreement act, by Punjab in 2004 has cancelled all previous agreements signed by the state with other states, so there is no point in Punjab raising the issue that it would abide by the provisions of the 1979 act,” Kotwal clarified, saying the work would resume only after all issues were resolved.
The chief engineer told HT, “The J&K officials have a lot of apprehensions about the Punjab government, which would be cleared in the forthcoming meeting, which hopefully would take place next week. We are hopeful that the construction work will resume soon.”
Stage 2 of the Ranjit Sagar dam, the Rs 2,285-crore, 206 megawatt Shahpur Kandi project on the Ravi — declared a ‘project of national importance’ in 2008 — has been a bone of contention as J&K says there is no agreement under which the project is being built.
The 1979 agreement was signed between then Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal and his then J&K counterpart Sheikh Abdullah. Reacting to Punjab’s claim that J&K took so much time to react, Kotwal said Punjab started construction without that.
J&K also has issues concerning the design of the upcoming dam. “They (Punjab) have changed the design from what it was in 1979. It would hamper our interest,” said Kotwal.