Punjab losses mount as J-K stops work

  • Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Hindustan Times, Shahpur Kandi (Pathankot/Kathua)
  • Updated: Sep 11, 2014 09:45 IST

Since the construction of the Shahpur Kandi dam project, being undertaken by Punjab, was stopped by Jammu and Kashmir on August 29, Punjab has already lost Rs 13 crore as penalty (Rs 1 crore every day) to be paid to the construction company for stopping the work.

Adding to the losses, the project site on the Ravi bed is getting flooded and around 800 labourers have been rendered jobless. Since the start of construction on March 29, 2013, Punjab has spent Rs 400 crore on the project.

The loss seems small when compared to the loss of millions of units of power due to delay in the project and the loss of irrigation to over 1.5 lakh acres of land for both the states.

In 1979, when the Ranjit Sagar Dam (RSD) project was conceived the total project cost (including stage-2 of Shahpur Kandi Dam) was Rs 70 crore; now, the cost of the Shahpur Kandi project alone is a whopping Rs 2,285 crore.

Lessons have still not been learnt, it seems.

Despite the fact that it’s a zero-cost project for Jammu and Kashmir, it has ordered to stop the work as 61% of the project area falls in Jammu and Kashmir and according to it, certain issues are still not decided.

The project was conceived with an agreement between then Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his then J&K counterpart Sheikh Abdullah. For optimum utilisation of the Ravi waters, twin projects – RSD (Thein Dam) and 16-km downstream Shahpur Kandi dam (barrage) were planned. Due to militancy in Punjab, the RSD was commissioned after 22 years, on March, 4, 2001, with its cost escalating to Rs 3,700 crore.

The stage-2 (Shahpur Kandi) continued to hang in the balance even after that, which was finally cleared in 2008 as a project of national importance when Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Baramullah, Saifudin Soz, then minister of water resources in the UPA-I government, got the project cleared from the empowered group of ministers.

Benefits to states

The installed generation capacity of RSD is 600 megawatts and that of Shahpur Kandi is 205 megawatts. Of the total generation, J&K has 20% share at the cost-of-generation basis. Since the commissioning of the project, J&K has refused to take power claiming the cost offered is higher than the market value.

With the completion of the Shahpur Kandi project, the vast fertile tracts of Samba and Kathua districts of J&K would get 1,150 cusecs of water to irrigate 32,100 acres of land and Punjab has an allocation of 13,500 cusecs for irrigating 1.23 lakh acres of land in Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts. The allocation of water is as per the 1955 agreement keeping in view the command area of two states. In the absence of Shahpur Kandi dam, huge water gets wasted as it flows into the Pakistani territory.

Objection by J&K

“In the absence of any agreement, we will not allow the project construction,” said J&K irrigation secretary Pawan Kotwal. He said the 1979 agreement became irrelevant after Punjab’s Termination of Agreements Act in 2004, according to which all previous agreements related to sharing of waters by Punjab with other states stand terminated.

But for Punjab, the 2004 act applies to non-riparian states and for Shahpur Kandi project, Jammu and Kashmir is a riparian state as the Ravi flows from Jammu and Kashmir into Punjab. “We have given an undertaking in the Supreme Court that the 2004 act has no bearing on the 1979 agreement,” said Punjab irrigation chief engineer Harvinder Singh.

Punjab irrigation secretary Kahan Singh Pannu and Harvinder Singh recently met Kotwal in Srinagar and were told to come up with a new draft agreement, accepting that the 1979 agreement didn’t exist and also involve the Centre, which is also funding the project. Both sides will meet again on September 12.

Punjab passed the 2004 Act to save the situation when the SYL canal case came up for final hearing in the Supreme Court; it was apprehended that the court might order to rebuild the canal to which Punjab was opposed. With the act, Punjab cancelled all previous agreements.

J&K’s apprehension is that Punjab would not give it water as it has not given its share of power from the RSD since its commissioning. “The apprehension is unfounded. The drawings of the project are ready and J&K has already approved it,” said a Punjab official, questioning why J&K remained silent for 10 years after the 2004 Act.

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