M A I N   N E W S

Taming the fury of river Ghaggar
Centre to fund Rs 1,150-crore national project
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News service

Chandigarh, April 12
The Union Government has decided in principle to bail out Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh from the repeated fury of the Ghaggar river by sanctioning a Rs 1,150-crore national project. The project will aim to use the flood water for ground water recharging in the region. The project will be implemented soon after the three states sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

A meeting was held between Punjab Chief secretary SC Aggarwal and Dr JS Samra, CEO and chairman of the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), where it was emphasised that the three states will have to give an undertaking that they agree to go ahead with the project after delinking it with the ongoing water dispute between them.

“In short, the states have to agree that this project will be a stand alone project,” Dr Samra told The Tribune.

There has been a sharp ground water depletion in Punjab and Haryana during the recent past. Punjab had a negative water balance of 45 per cent in 2004, which is expected to touch a new low of 70 per cent negative balance this year. At the same time, the repeated damage caused by floods from the Ghaggar causes loss to the tune of several thousand crores of rupees every other year. This project will help use the flood water to recharge the sub-soil water level.

On account of heavy losses to the life and property due to floods last July, Punjab and Haryana have sought compensation to the tune of Rs 1,100 crore. The flood, like the one last year inundates several villages and even disrupts rail and road traffic. For this national project, the Centre will contribute 90 per cent of the cost and the remaining 10 per cent will come from the states based on the area of the Ghaggar falling under their jurisdiction.

According to Dr Samra, as per the tentative proposal, Punjab will get Rs 485 crore, Haryana Rs 475 crore and Himachal Pradesh Rs 145 crore from the Centre. These states will have to contribute 10 per cent of the remaining amount as per the guidelines of the Centre. This money will not be the part of the money sanctioned to these states as part of their annual plan.

The proposal for the project came up for the first time when Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda met officials of the Planning Commission on February 26, 2011, to discuss the state’s annual plan. He demanded money for flood control measures on the Ghaggar. Again when Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal met officials of the Planning Commission on April 6, 2011, he demanded money for the same purpose. The Planning Commission then involved the NRAA and asked it to explore possibility of a national project. The NRAA has held several rounds of talks with officials of all the three states.

Dr Samra said if the state government wanted the quick implementation of this national project, they would have to sign the MOU and return it to the NRAA quickly. “If the Planning Commission exhausts its resources for this year, then the states may have to wait for another year to have this project implemented. But if the MOU is signed and returned to the Centre, the work can start before the next monsoon”.





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