M A I N   N E W S

Malwa lifeline re-runs today
This is for the first time since Independence that the canal network in Punjab is being revamped
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 22
Tomorrow will be a new enthralling day for farmers of the Malwa region, especially those living in Patiala, Sangrur and Mansa districts, with water being released in the reconstructed first Patiala Feeder, a canal known to be the lifeline of the agricultural economy of the region.

The embankments of the canal have been strengthened as a part of the Rs 3,240-crore project initiated by the Badal government in the state to revamp the canal systems. For reconstructing the 25-km portion of the canal, the government has spent Rs 25 crore though original estimates were to the tune of Rs 32 crore.

With the strengthening of the canal, its capacity has increased by 1,300 to 1,400 cusecs. Briefing The Tribune team that visited the reconstructed canal, irrigation minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon said it was for the first time since Independence that the initiative had been taken to revamp the entire canal network in the state. “For the past several decades, the canal systems have remained neglected and no one bothered to restore them”, claimed Sekhon.

A few weeks ago, The Tribune had highlighted the pathetic state of the canal systems and heavy decline in its water capacity. It has been officially confirmed that the capacity of the canal network on an average had come down by 25 per cent, resulting into a chaos at the tail-ends of canals.

The minister said the capacity of the feeder canal, that draws water from Sirhind Canal for further release in the Kotla branch, had come down to average 3,500 cusecs from 4,920 cusecs over the years because of accumulation of silt in its bed and damaged embankments and inspection banks. Now, its capacity had gone up by 1,400-1,500 cusecs, he said.

It is a 148 wide and 12 deep canal and 4 of 5 feet of silt had to be removed from its bed.

Sekhon said Irrigation Department officers had only three weeks’ time to reconstruct the canal. The water of the canal was used by farmers round the year. As the past two-three weeks were considered a lean period for canal water demand, we decided to utilise reconstruct the First Patiala feeder first under the canal network revamp project.

In the next phase, possibly, at the time of harvesting of wheat crop in April and the first half of June, we would get about a month’s time to desilt the Kotla branch and strengthened its embankments. During that phase, the attempt would also be made to rehabilitate the Second Patiala feeder, he added.

After the paddy harvest, another attempt would be made to reconstruct some other canal systems.

In the next three and a half years, the department had planned to rehabilitate all canals, distributaries and minors, Sekhon added.

The government and the Centre will contribute 75 per cent and 25 per cent, respectively, in rehabilitation programme. Renovation of the canal systems will significantly reduce burden on irrigation through tubewells.

Owing to the closure of the First Sirhind Feeder for reconstruction work, canal water was not available in vast part of Sangrur, Mansa and adjoining areas. Now, with the release of the water in the feeder canal tomorrow, water would reach Sangrur and Mansa districts within the next 48 hours.

As The Tribune visited the canal site, labourers were busy giving final touches to the revamped feeder. “We have made arrangements to release water in the canal tomorrow”, said superintending engineer of the canal D.S. Jassar.



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