Having repeatedly committed to strengthen the security set-up along the 553-km Punjab border with Pakistan, the central government continues to drag its feet over the release of funds required for strengthening the flood-protection works in the highly vulnerable riverine belt of Punjab.
About two years ago, the Centre, based on a report by the Punjab government as well as on the basis of information collected through its own sources, had agreed to assist Punjab in strengthening the flood-protection works along the Ravi river, which zigzags along the Indo-Pakistan border in the Gurdaspur and Amritsar sectors.
The need for this was felt after government survey teams pointed to the damage that was being caused
by the Ravi during monsoon every year to defence installations along the border.
Sources in the Punjab government claimed that the Centre had in-principle agreed to release an amount of `161.05 crore for strengthening the flood-protection system along the Ravi, starting from Madhopur in Pathankot district to Kakkar village in Amritsar, from where the river finally enters Pakistan.
The project was technically cleared but the funds have not been released even after repeated requests from the state government, they said.
Official surveys area
As is the case every year, the state government sent its officials to take stock of the damages caused by the Ravi this time too. Another survey will be conducted after the monsoon is over.
Secretary irrigation KS Pannu undertook a survey along with officials of the Punjab drainage department on Sunday.
Talking to HT, Pannu said as the slope of the Ravi is towards India, it poses a threat to the Indian side. Although the construction of the Ranjit Sagar Dam has reduced the incidents of flash floods, the river causes heavy damage to life and property in the surrounding areas when it is on the spate during the rainy season.
Pannu said Pakistan has constructed a number of 'bundhs' (flood protection wall) and diverted the river flow towards the Indian side. A number of border outposts (BOPs) of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Indian Army from Narot Jaimal Singh to Kakkar face a direct threat of floods, he said.
"Since the border fence gets damaged during the rains every year, it is important to strengthen the vulnerable 'bundhs' on the Ravi on the Indian side for the safety of border outposts and other defence installations besides villages and farmland," he added.
In the absence of central funds, the drainage department carries out flood protection works from time to time.
While inspecting the area, Pannu expressed concern over the heavy erosion on the both sides of the Ravi at a number of places. He noted that loops have developed on the left bank of the river, which will cause damage to the border fence and defence installations, besides life and property of residents if the water level rises further.
Jasbir Singh Sandhu, executive engineer, Amritsar drainage division, accompanied Pannu in an army boat during the inspection. The riverine belt is highly sensitive and majority of intrusions by drug smugglers take place from these areas.