The tussle between Punjab and Haryana over water sharing has cost people dear, as some Sangrur and Patiala areas left unprotected from flood because of this fight were marooned on Tuesday night when the Ghaggar river breached its banks near Makraur Sahib.
Thousands of acres in Khanauri and nearby areas are under water. Multiple breaches, including six major ones, occurred just two hours after irrigation minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon had reviewed the flood-prevention measures and the officers concerned had convinced him that all was fine. Haryana prevents Punjab from embanking the Ghaggar in disputed 20 kilometers, which has forced people to make own arrangements to check the flow of river water. The biggest breaches occurred at Nayangaon and Phulad villages in this very section.
After heavy rain in its catchment areas, the Ghaggar is filled with 13,500 cusecs of water and flowing just two feet below the danger mark. “Since there are no embankments, when the Ghaggar overflowed, it flooded almost 5,000 acres of agricultural land,” said Sangrur deputy commissioner Arshdeep Singh Thind, adding: “We are lucky that the water has not entered the inhabited areas.”
Most of the breaches occurred shortly after midnight. The Sangrur administration claimed it had worked overnight and plugged the gaps at Daka Peer, Handa, Moonak and Surjan Bahini villages. The 80-footwide breach at Phulad village did the maximum damage, and after 16 hours, only 30 feet had been repaired. “Hopefully, we will plug it by Wednesday midnight,” said the DC. Heavy machinery, JCBs, and extra manual labour have been pushed in to assist local villagers in the repair effort.
Five of the six major breaches occurred where Haryana objects to embanking. The district administration sees the need for investigation only in case of the breach at Nayangaon, as the irrigation department had spent several lakh rupees recently on strengthening the embankment there. Irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu has asked chief engineer (drainage) Anil Sood to oversee the plugging arrangements.
“We have spent about `8 crore on cleaning the Ghaggar but Haryana’s stopping us from embanking the river from Makraur Sahib downstream undoes our efforts. Punjab has raised the issue several times at state-level meetings but Haryana is not allowing us to channelise the Ghaggar. It rakes up other water disputes such as the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) and HansiButana. At least the Ghaggar, a seasonal river, should be allowed to be channelized,” said Sood.
The administration claims it acted swiftly, but the villagers said it were they who prevented the breach from widening by throwing in axed trees and sand bags. “By the time the administration’s team arrived, we had plugged 90% of the breach”, said Nayangaon’s Angrej Singh, ruing the “massive damage to crops. “This is after the first monsoon rain. The second would probably flood all the villages near the Ghaggar,” he said.
Makraur Sahib resident Hardeep Singh said: “The Punjab-Haryana tussle over water is costing the people who live by the Ghaggar. It’s a manmade tragedy.”