The much-awaited repairs of the Harike headworks to enable its waters reach the tail end villages remain only on paper for over a year.
With the headworks’ scheduled closure for its historic overhauling after 60 years of its inception arriving this March-end, Punjab’s chief engineer (canals) JP Singh has proceeded on “medical leave” after writing to his subordinate, a superintending engineer, to look into the possibilities for cancellation of the tenders .
The trouble does not end here as the headworks now stood headless, with its XEN Vijaypal Mann transferred to Faridkot for putting his foot down against the chief engineer’s dictates for cancelling and re-awarding the tenders worth Rs 57 crore all of a sudden last month, revealed the documents in the possession of HT. Another XEN posted 170 km away in Malout has now been given the additional charge of headworks.
EIGHT GATES BEYOND REPAIRS
The headworks at the Sutlej-Beas confluence is the source of the Rajasthan canal, the longest in the south and the south-east Asia, and the Ferozepur feeder catering to the south-western Punjab. The headworks’ 14 of total 31 gates at its main barrage have gone defunct due to rust. Another 8 of the total 14 canal regulation gates have also gone beyond repairs.
About 600 cusecs of water is flowing to Pakistan round-the-clock in the absence of repairs of these defunct and choking gates.
The headworks also needs repairs at 3 of its 31 piers at the main barrage. The shifted XEN, who had worked on the project for a year, had also raised alarm of flash floods or a mishap due to the damage to piers.
FUNDS NO PROBLEM
The Rajasthan government has already deposited Rs 29 crore with Punjab for the repairs and the rest Rs 10 crore is to come up once the repairs begin. The Punjab government has also released Rs 17.5 crore as the state’s share to the irrigation department for the compliance of the tendered out works at a total cost of Rs 57.5 crore.
The much-awaited project during the upcoming closure beginning March 27 would need 20-odd days for repair and overhauling, XEN Mann said.
Punjab additional chief secretary, irrigation, KBS Sindhu, was not available for comments, while secretary irrigation KS Pannu said, “We are working on this project”. He, however, refused to clear the air over the mess created by the chief engineer’s letter for re-tendering and the uncertainty looming large.
Chief engineer JP Singh said he was on leave and would not be able to explain the reasons “at this juncture”. “The project, I must say at least, should be carried out as per schedule and its urgency,” he said. He averted a reply on the fate of his communication for recalling the tenders with only a week left for the deadline.
The HT had done a detailed story, in November 2016, on the fields of tail-end villages in Fazilka, Muktsar and Ferozepur districts going dry in the absence of underground water and the problem becoming a poll issue in vain for four decades.