It has already been three months since work on the 205-megawatt Shahpur Kandi dam being built by the Punjab government on the river Ravi was stopped by the Jammu and Kashmir government, and there are no immediate signs of removal of hurdles.
The Punjab irrigation department, which is undertaking the project through a private company, has blamed J&K for the hurdles. “A meeting was fixed for November 11 but it could not be held because of lack of interest by J&K,” said the irrigation department chief engineer Harvinder Singh. Penalty to be paid to the construction firm for stopping work runs into crores — Rs 10 lakh a day — and there are incidental charges as the labour and machinery are idle. Since the start of construction on March 29 last year Punjab has spent Rs 400 crore on the project. Only the foundation has been laid so far.
But the J&K government is steadfast that, “in the absence of any agreement, we will not allow construction”, as was conveyed by J&K irrigation secretary Pawan Kotwal. He said the 1979 agreement for the project became irrelevant after the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, “as all previous agreements related to sharing of waters by Punjab with other states stand terminated”.
Punjab, on the other hand, says the 2004 Act applies to non-riparian states, while for the Shahpur Kandi project J&K is a riparian state since the Ravi flows from the hill state into Punjab. “We have given an undertaking in the Supreme Court that the 2004 Act has no bearing on the 1979 agreement,” said Harvinder.
The logjam persists and recent developments have ensured there’s no early solution.
“First, there were the floods in J&K, then the shifting of the capital from Srinagar to Jammu, and now there are assembly polls. This is ruining a prestigious project,” said a Punjab officer.
J&K irrigation secretary Kotwal hopes construction would resume in the first week of December, but he told that the “there are issues which need to be settled with Punjab first”. He said officers are in touch and that he had also met Punjab chief secretary Sarvesh Kaushal in Delhi.
WHY THE ACT?
Punjab passed the 2004 Act for termination of agreements to save the situation when the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal case came up for final hearing in the Supreme Court; it was apprehended that the court might order to rebuild the canal to share water with Haryana.
J&K’s apprehension is that Punjab would not give it water as the latter has not given J&K its share of power from the RSD. However, questioning why J&K remained silent for 10 years after the 2004 Act, a Punjab officer told HT, “The apprehension is unfounded. Drawings of the project are ready and J&K has already approved it.
PROJECT: COST & BENEFIT
It was for optimum utilisation of Ravi’s waters that the twin projects – RSD (Thein Dam) and 16km downstream Shahpur Kandi (barrage) were planned. In 1979, when the project project was conceived, the total cost (including stage-2 Shahpur Kandi) was Rs 70 crore; now, the cost of Shahpur Kandi alone is Rs 2,285 crore.
Due to militancy in Punjab, the main RSD part was commissioned after much delay on March 4, 2001, with its cost escalating to Rs 3,700 crore. Shahpur Kandi continued to hang in the balance, and was finally cleared in 2008 as a Project of National Importance.
Of the Rs 2,285-crore Shahpur Kandi cost, 28.6% is to be borne by Punjab irrigation department and the rest by the Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL). Around 90% of the irrigation department’s share — Rs 530 crore — is to be paid by the Centre as grant. The Punjab government, through its irrigation department, has already spent Rs 400 crore, while only Rs 26 crore has come from the Centre. It’s a zero-cost project for J&K.
Of the power, J&K has 20% share at cost-of-generation basis. Also, Samba and Kathua districts of J&K would get 1,150 cusec water to irrigate 32,100 acres of land, and Punjab has an allocation of 13,500 cusec for 1.23 lakh acres in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot. In absence of the dam, the water flows into Pakistan.