Work on the rehabilitation project of 800-km Bist-Doab canal continues to hang fire nearly a year after its scheduled start date of October 1, 2013, even after the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard) sanctioned Rs10 crore for the project in March this year.
Previously, the state government had failed to arrange funds and since March there have been several reasons cited for not starting work.
Even as Nabard sanctioned the money, officials claimed to have all their attention consumed by the general elections.
After the elections, it was now claimed that the paddy sowing season was to begin and thus the irrigation department had to release water into canal, which runs for around 800 km in the state and has a capacity to irrigate more than 4.92-lakh-acres agriculture land.
A senior official of the irrigation department, not wishing to be named, said: "We did not start work on the project as most of distributaries of the 800-km
Bist-Doab canal had not been cleaned. As a result, water failed to reach the fields adding to the misery of farmers caused by a weak monsoon."
He added that the government had been facing criticism for several years for "ignoring" the canal, which was the main source of irrigation in the four districts of Doaba region - Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur.
He added that the project had been technically approved by Central Water Commission (CWC) and was to be funded by the central and state governments and Nabard.
"The canal's 14 small and large canals or distributaries had not received any financial aid from any of the designated sources since its inception in 1955."
Irrigation minister Sharanjeet Singh Dhillon was unavailable for comments, in spite of repeated attempts by HT.
Irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said that he had no knowledge of the project. "Please contact chief engineer (canals) Amarjit Singh," he said. Singh again could not be contacted.
Finally, irrigation department executive engineer Arwinder Singh Sohal said that Rs 10 crore had been released by Nabard and work on the project will start after the paddy season ends in October this year.