The irrigation department will soon revise the cost of the Rs 247-crore Bist-Doab Canal restoration project which was scheduled to begin on October 1 last year but could not.
The cash-starved state government had announced to start the renovation and extension work of the canal which runs around 800 kilometres across the state and has a capacity to irrigate over 4.92 lakh acres of agriculture land.
The officials concerned said as a result of an increase in the rates of construction material, including sand, bricks and gravel besides labour and hidden charges, the project cost needed to be revised or the department would have faced paucity of funds in future.
Officials said tenders for the project were floated earlier as well but no bidders showed their interest in it.
The project report was sent to the Centre in last October last year at an estimated cost of Rs 247 crore but no response has been received even as seven months have passed since.
The report of revised cost will also be sent to the government so that additional cost could be added before releasing the grant or floating tenders, they added.
Talking to Hindustan Times, Arwinder Singh Sohal, executive engineer of the irrigation department, said, "The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has already given nod to financial grant for the project. Hopefully, the project will start very soon and will complete in the next three years."
Sohal said with the change in cost of input material and increase of premium it was better to send the revised project cost."This will be for the first time that the canal will be renovated since its inception in 1955," Sohal added.
The state government has been facing criticism for the past several years for ignoring the canal, which was the main source of irrigation in four districts of Doaba region — Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur.
The canal, considered the lifeline of the region, is a dry in most of the areas. Encroachments and garbage dumps have further deteriorated its condition.
The project was technically approved by the Central Water Commission (CWC) and was to be funded by the central and state governments. Sources in the irrigation department maintained that the canal system, which has 14 small and large tributaries, had not received financial aid since 1955.
Officials said it was for the first time that the CWC had approved the project since it was being repeatedly revised for want of funds for the past several years.
They said brick lining was to be done on the banks of the canal under renovation and modernization process.
"Brick lining will help recharging water in an efficient manner, making its embankments stronger leading to faster movement of water," they said.As most of the areas in Doaba region faced depletion of groundwater levels, the canal irrigation system would help increasing the same.Irrigation department officials said if farmers used canal water during paddy season a huge amount of underground water could be saved.