The project of relining of the twin canals-Rajasthan and Sirhind feeders-suggested by the Planning Commission three years ago as a step to curbing the problem of waterlogging in southwest Punjab finally seems to be taking shape.
The Union ministry of water resources (MoWR) has cleared a Rs 1,976 crore project (Rs 1,305 crore for the Rajasthan feeder and Rs 671 crore for the Sirhind feeder), which is awaiting clearance from the Union cabinet after which the funds are expected to be sanctioned. The project has already got technical clearance from Central Water Commission (CWC). The canals have never been repaired since they were built over 50 years ago, causing seepage leading to waterlogging.
“We are hopeful that the project will start soon,” said a senior engineer from the canals wing of the state irrigation department.
The Planning Commission in a report had said, “Comprehensive assessment of waterlogging in southwest Punjab by Central Groundwater Board shows that one of the major causes of waterlogging in Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozepur districts is the continuous seepage from Rajasthan and Sirhind feeder canals. To reduce seepage of water from the canals and watercourse, the lining of the irrigation network is imperative.”
About 100 kilometres in length, the two canals pass though the waterlogged area for about 80 km in three districts of Punjab. About 118 square kilometres of area is waterlogged in Punjab, over 60 square kilometres in Muktsar district alone.
Renovation project for Sutlej-fed canals
A Rs 918 crore project of extension, renovation and modernisation of four canals being fed by the Sutlej was approved by the ministry. These canals are Bathinda, Abohar, Bist Doab and Sidhwan branches. The state government has procured a Rs 50 crore loan from National Bank for Agriculture Research and Development for the Bist-Doab canal and the work of relining has begun. Though a project cost of Rs 918 crore has been approved by the CWC for the remaining three canals, so far there is no allocation of funds from the central ministry.
Chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had approached Union minister for water resources Uma Bharti for funds and the state government is planning to raise long-term loans from financial institutions.
UBDC project with CWC
A Rs 1,375 crore project of rehabilitation, modernisation and renovation of various distributaries and minors, along with allied works of Upper Bari Doab Canal, is under the consideration of the CWC for technical approval. These works are to be carried in Tarn Taran, Pathankot, Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts.