Two top officials of Punjab government — irrigation department secretary Kahan Singh Pannu and chief engineer Harvinder Singh — on Thursday rushed to meet officials of Jammu and Kashmir after the latter ordered to stop construction work on the 206 megawatt Shahpur Kandi Dam project on August 30.
Reportedly, the deputy commissioner of Kathua went to the project site and ordered to stop work of concreting the 135m-by-400m dam on the riverbed and water regulators, on the directions of J&K irrigation secretary Pawan Kotwal. A meeting between officials of the two states has now been fixed for Friday to find a way out.
Stage 2 of the Ranjit Sagar Dam, the Rs. 2,285-crore Shahpur Kandi project on the river Ravi — declared a ‘project of national importance’ in 2008 — has been a bone of contention as J&K says there is no agreement under which the project is being built. But Punjab cites an agreement signed in 1979. “J&K claims that all agreements signed by Punjab with other states have become non-existent after Punjab government passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act in 2004,” the irrigation department chief engineer from Punjab, Harvinder Singh, told HT.
It must be recalled that the 1979 agreement was signed between Parkash Singh Badal, who the CM then too, and the then CM of J&K, Sheikh Abdullah, the grandfather of the present CM Omar Abdullah.
“We have no option other than stopping work. Punjab is not signing a new agreement when all agreements have been annulled by their Act in 2004. Let us see what they offer tomorrow (on Friday),” Kotwal said.
But Harvinder argued, “The stopping of work by J&K is unjustified, because there is no issue of disagreement. We had paid the land cost way back and also given in writing to J&K that the termination of agreement act of 2004 has no bearing on the agreement with them. The act is only applicable to non-riparian states like Haryana and Rajasthan, which get water from Punjab.” He claimed further that Punjab had repeatedly sent drafts of a new agreement, too, to J&K.
The dam is being built on the border of the two states involving 1,500 acres of land on each side.
Punjab claims it paid Rs. 5 crore, the cost of the land, back in 1995. After clearance to the project in 2008 by an empowered group of ministers, Punjab started work in 2013 which it executed as a joint venture between private firm Soma and Russian company Bureya.