Amid tensions with Pakistan, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh revives Shahpur Kandi Barrage project

Apart from generating clean power, the project would also improve irrigation potential of 1.18 lakh hectares of Upper Bari Doab Canal, which would reduce the water flowing into Pakistan drastically

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Bipin Bhardwaj

The Shahpur Kandi Barrage project that failed to take off in more than 24 years after former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao laid its foundation stone on April 20, 1995, has been revived, with Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh rededicating this national project to the people of Punjab on Friday.

Captain Amarinder Singh re-laid the foundation stone of this vital project, being constructed on the Ravi river near Madhopur headworks in the Pathankot district, six months after Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir governments entered into a historic agreement on the construction of the project.

The construction cost of the ₹126-crore project (in 1995) has gone up to over ₹2,700-crore and was to be completed by 1998. In the last 24 years, the project has witnessed many foundation ceremonies. Though foundation stones were laid by political leaders, including two Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers and Punjab’s cabinet ministers, the progress is still disappointing.

With a capacity of generating 206 MW of electricity, the Shahpur Kandi Barrage project will also help bring 37,173 hectares of cultivable command area in Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir under irrigation.

Since laying the first foundation stone, the project had been hanging fire. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee promised to expedite work on April 4, 2001. Vajpayee had made the announcement while dedicating Ranjit Sagar Dam project to the nation near Pathankot.

The project is to be executed by the Punjab government. Centre had agreed to bear 90 per cent of the cost that was estimated at ₹2,285.81 crore in April 2008. Moving at a snail’s pace, the project finally came to a halt in 2014, following objections by Jammu and Kashmir, a stakeholder in the project. The Shahpur Kandi Barrage would provide irrigation facility to 5,000 hectares in Punjab and 32,173 hectares in Jammu and Kashmir.

At the foundation laying ceremony, Amarinder Singh said that of the estimated cost, which is in addition to the ₹640 crore already spent till 2014, ₹1,408 crore would be spent on the power component, with 100 per cent share of Punjab Government, and ₹685 crore on the irrigation component, with ₹485 crore to be contributed by Government of India and ₹179.28 crore by the Punjab government. The project would be completed within three years, he claimed, adding that it would result in increased irrigated of 5,000 hectares across the state.

Apart from generating clean power, the project would also improve irrigation potential of 1.18 lakh hectares of Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC). This would reduce the water flowing into Pakistan drastically and would help save the critical water resources of the state.

The UPA government in centre declared Shahpur Kandi as a “national project” in 2008

The project will also give impetus to tourism, besides supplementing the income of residents in the region. With the construction of the Shahpur Kandi Dam, the historic Mukteshwar Temple would also be saved from submergence, the CM assured.

Moreover, nearly 280 families were ousted and have been offered jobs by the Punjab government, claimed Sunil Jakhar, Member of Parliament from Gurdaspur, who is also President of Punjab Congress Committee.

History of Shahpur Kandi Barrage

  • The origin of the Shahpur Kandi project can be traced to a 1979 agreement between Chief Ministers of Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir, for the Ranjit Sagar (Thein) Dam to be built on the Ravi on the border of the two states.
  • To optimise the utilisation of the water, a second dam was to come up at some distance downstream, at Shahpur Kandi in Gurdaspur (now Pathankot ) district of Punjab.
  • Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation of the Ranjit Sagar dam in 1982.
  • In July 2004, the Punjab Assembly passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, unilaterally abrogating its water-sharing agreements with neighbouring states.
  • The UPA government at Centre declared Shahpur Kandi as a “national project” in 2008.
  • The Irrigation Department of the Punjab government started building the dam in January 2013, but the Jammu and Kashmir government stopped the construction, saying there was no agreement for sharing of waters and power from the project.
  • It was in the light of the Assembly action in 2004, that Jammu and Kashmir demanded a firm commitment from Punjab that its rights over the water and power from the Ranjit Sagar Dam would be protected in perpetuity.
  • Jammu and Kashmir government said it was uncertain about Punjab’s commitment to share power, water and economic benefits that would flow from the project and asked Punjab to guarantee that a fresh agreement was signed in which the Centre would also be involved.
  • Since, in order to ensure that India makes full utilisation of its “unrestricted” right over the waters of the “Eastern Rivers” — Ravi, Sutlej and Beas — of the Indus basin as per the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960, the central government began to actively mediate between Punjab and J&K.
  • The efforts, mediated by Union Water Resources Minister and monitored by the PMO, led to an agreement being signed on September 8, 2018, between the Chief Secretaries of Punjab and J&K, and the Indian Commissioner of Indus Waters.

Benefits for Punjab

The Shahpur Kandi Barrage will generate 207 MW power and irrigate 95,000 acres of land for Punjab’s farmers. Being vital to Punjab as the Bhakra and Ranjit Sagar Dam projects, it would allow India to utilise fully the waters of the Ravi as per the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan.

Gains for Jammu and Kashmir

The state will get 20 per cent of the power generated and is also entitled to 0.69 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the Ravi, of which only 0.215 MAF is being utilised currently.

Following the agreement, Kathua and Samba and some parts of Jammu district will benefit, as agricultural land in the Kandi areas, upstream and downstream. The Jammu-Pathankot national highway in Samba and Kathua districts will also be irrigated.

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