After the recent devastation by floods in the district and the resultant outrage, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal formed a high-powered state-level committee and tasked it to find a permanent solution to the water-logging problem plaguing the south-west part of the state.
However, local drainage department officials are not impressed by the action. Most engineers with the department claim that what is needed the most at this juncture is political will to ensure that the drains follow the correct scientific path. What happens now is that the path of drainage pipes is diverted if it happens to pass through an influential and politically-connected farmer, defeating the purpose and making the area more vulnerable to floods.
In their representation before the committee, engineers from Gidderbaha and Muktsar drainage listed out simple steps that could solve the problem to a large extent. One of the first steps should be to correct the alignment of the Sravan Bodla and Sravan Toe drains as they take a right-angle turn at many points on the path.
"Influential farmers do not like drains passing through their agricultural fields. They manage to pull strings and force us to change the path of the drain by overlooking the natural flow of water," an engineer told HT on the condition of anonymity.
There are other examples that have come to the notice of HT. A drain from Lundewala village via Vadian to Krainwala drain was sketched in 2008, but was scrapped under political pressure as it was to pass through lands of politicians.
"The question is if government would dare to correct the alignment of the drains in CM's home district by offending the lobby of influential farmers. Will government allow us to pursue the proposed projects of new drains that are sketched to passes through fields of political landowners?" asked the engineer.
Another issue is that the drains are overburdened and have not kept pace with the population pressure being brought to bear on it.
Made to carry 150 mm of rain water, the drains were already carrying water equal to 200 mm due to excessive irrigation, before the 350 mm rain actually hit the district this monsoon.
"The department has always advised farmers to use ground water for irrigation, but the farmers press the government for more canal water. This also leads to water-logging as the soil here does not sap water as much," said another officials of the Muktsar drainage department.
They claimed that the damage this year would have been less, if the farmers had had not discharged 200mm before, just before the rains came.
"Farmers have enough water and it encourages them to change the water in paddy fields very frequently. This water overburdens the drains and increases the danger of waterlogging."
"These suggestions are made time and again all through the year, but more than any technical or a new-fangled solution, political will is needed to tackle the situation."