With the state government failing to contribute its share of funds even as the central government was willing to provide 25% financial assistance to the restoration of 800-km Bist-Doab canal, work on the Rs 247-crore project scheduled to start on October 1, 2013, has been hanging fire for over two years. The only explanation forthcoming from the state government is that the central assistance to the project has been blocked due to the delay in execution.
Irrigation minister Sharanjeet Singh Dhillon said, "We are still working to revive the project, as this is the lifeline of irrigation for Doaba. The restoration has been delayed as financial assistance from the Central government closed. We are trying to arrange the money."
Interestingly, the execution of the project has been delayed several times after central clearance was reportedly suspended. HT has learnt that in March 2014, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) sanctioned `10 crore for the project, but this money never reached the local office of the irrigation department.
Irrigation department executive engineer Arwinder Singh Sohal said, "We are expecting the Centre to clear the roadblocks in the way of the project soon."
Another senior department official claimed that with the financial assistance to the project being held up, the distributaries had not been cleaned.
"The government has been facing criticism for several years for "ignoring" the canal, which was the main source of irrigation in four districts of Doaba region - Jalandhar, Nawanshahr, Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur," he added, claiming that the project had received technical approval from the Central Water Commission (CWC) two years ago and was to be funded by the central and state governments and the NABARD.
The canal's 14 small and large canals or distributaries had not received any financial aid from any of the designated sources since its first use in 1955. The canal runs for around 800 km in the state and has the capacity to irrigate more than 4.92-lakh-acres.
The government has been facing criticism for several years for 'ignoring' the canal, which was the main source of irrigation in four Doaba districts.
Irrigation dept official