While chief minister Virbhadra Singh is scheduled to lay the foundation stone of the prestigious flood protection project for 73 Swan River tributaries in Una district on Wednesday, rival political parties are vying to take credit of river channelisation, which, when complete, is expected to change the scenario of the district.
After the completion of this fourth phase of the project, which has 90% central funding, Una will be the first district in the country to have 100% stone pitched wire crate embankment structures along all major water channels.
However, BJP spokesman Parveen Sharma on Tuesday claimed that channelisation of Swan river and its network of tributaries was the brainchild of the BJP.
Addressing mediapersons at the PWD rest house here, he said it was Prem Kumar Dhumal, who as chief minister had sanctioned the first phase of the project, estimated at `106 crore to create embankments along the most vulnerable 16-km stretch of the main river between Jhalera and Santoshgarh bridges.
Sharma said the foundation stone of the first phase was laid on 15 April, 2000, by Dhumal, while the second phase, to create embankments along the 27-km stretch of the river between Gagret bridge and Jhalera bridge was also sanctioned during the BJP regime.
The foundation stone for the second phase was laid in 2008 by CM Dhumal, said Sharma, adding that a sum of `235 crore was spent on the second phase.
The BJP spokesman said in all, 7,250 hectares was reclaimed from the annual flooding after the completion of the two phases of channelisation of the main river. He said the foundation stone of the third phase, which included channelisation of the main river beyond the Santoshgarh bridge to the Punjab border, was also laid by Dhumal after sanctioning a sum of `48 crore for the same.
Sharma said the BJP had even done the necessary spadework for the fourth phase that included channelisation of all 73 tributaries. He said during the last BJP regime, the detailed project report for the fourth phase was sanctioned by the state government on November, 24, 2011 and the Central Water and Power Research Institute (CWPRI), Pune, had made an estimate of `945 crore for the project, adding that the project was later sent to the Central Water Commission for approval.
Questioning the place for laying the foundation stone of the fourth phase, the BJP spokesman said while the foundation stone for such projects is laid at the point where the work was to start and the inauguration was done at the place of completion of the work, the CM was laying the foundation stone at Kangar in Haroli segment where the last embankment of the project will culminate. He charged that all development in Una district was diverted to Haroli segment, while the other four assembly segments were at the receiving end.
Refuting the charges, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri claimed that `922 crore channelisation project was conceived, documented and sanctioned during the past seven months. He said the BJP has the habit of taking credits of the works done during the Congress regimes.
2.35 lakh persons to be benifitted
Once completed, a sum of around `1,200 crore would have been spent on all four phases of the Swan river channelisation project. The union government has set 2017 as the deadline for the completion of the project. While land measuring more than 8,000 hectares has already been reclaimed in the first three phases, another 4,000 hectares is expected to be reclaimed in the fourth phase. The total length of the channelisation in the fourth phase will be 387.58 km, which covers a catchment area of 1,200 sq km. While a human population of 2.35 lakh persons is expected to be benefitted in 165 villages, vast stretches of land, which were not being cultivated due to fury of floods, will be brought under cultivation.