The British era Shanan Hydropower project is lying in a shambles due to apathy of the Punjab government.
Commissioned in 1936 during the British rule, the Shanan Hydro-electric power house was constructed under a 99-year lease deed executed between Joginder Sen, raja of Mandi State, and British engineer colonel BC Batty in 1925. During the reorganisation of states in November 1966, the Shanan Power House went to Punjab on a 99-year lease deed.
This project was constructed in the backdrop of dense deodar forests with a four-stage haulage rail network starting from Jogindernagar upto Barot, a cup-shaped village on the bank of Uhl.
The Britishers had laid a small guage rail line between Pathankot and Jogindernagar to transport heavy machinery to the Shanan Complex. A ropeway trolley, one of its types in the country, was also constructed. The power house used to supply power to the entire undivided Punjab and Delhi at that time. The power house was, in fact, a unique project in the country and its marvelous setting had made it a tourist destination.
But, now the Punjab government and the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) seem to ignore the beautiful Shanan complex knitted with rail lines and haulage trucks and trolleys. The PSEB has stopped paying heed to the project and its maintenance.
The bungalow of head works engineer at Barot is in a dilapidated state. During a recent visit, the HT reporter was told that the engineer now sits in Jogindernagar.
The infrastructure of the project is in a poor condition. It seems as the Punjab government would hand over ruins and ravages to the state on termination of the 99-year old lease in 2024, nine years from now.
The trolley service has also suspended and ropes and pulleys of haulage have been rusted and decayed for want of maintenance.
Sharing his concern, Mandi MP Ram Swarup Sharma said he was deeply annoyed by the attitude of PSEB towards this historic and monumental project. He has brought it to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in New Delhi, requesting them to direct the Punjab government not to destroy this invaluable project.
Now, the work on Uhl stage 3 project (100MW), which was started in Chulla village in 2003, by constructing two reservoirs at Machhyal Lake and Raktal village is going on a war footing.
The project was delayed due to paucity of the funds and alleged cold attitude of the UPA government towards Himachal Pradesh. Now, the work has been accelerated and is likely to be completed in about 3 years, according to official sources.