Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 26
The central government on Wednesday approved financial assistance worth Rs 825 crore for relining of Sirhind and Rajasthan feeder canals to prevent flooding in Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozpur in Punjab.
Briefing the press after a meeting of the Union Cabinet, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said: “The government today approved central assistance of Rs. 620.42 crore and Rs. 205.758 crore for implementation of relining of Rajasthan and Sirhind feeder canals, respectively, over five years (2018-19 to 2022-23)”.
A government statement said the projects would help address the problem of flooding in 84,800 hectare of land in Muktsar, Faridkot and Ferozpur districts in southwest Punjab. “The projects, once completed would address the problem of water logging in South-West Punjab and enhance the flows/water availability in the two canals,” it said.
The statement said the projects would help improve irrigation in 98,739 hectares of land in Rajasthan and 69,086 hectares in Punjab.
Noting that the funding for central assistance for twin-project will be made through NABARD, the statement said, the total approved cost of relining of Sirhind Feeder Canal is Rs. 671.478 crore and that of Rajasthan Feeder Canal is Rs. 1305.267 crore.
Sirhind and Rajasthan feeders take off upstream of Harike Head works and flow through Punjab before crossing over into Rajasthan. The twin canals have a common bank and were constructed in the 1960s as lined (brick) channels to convey water to command areas in Punjab and Rajasthan.
It is learnt Punjab government has reported considerable seepage loss due to damages in the lining of both Sirhind and Rajasthan Feeders. As a result, apart from reduced flows in these canals, the adjacent areas have been affected by water logging causing huge agricultural losses.
Holding a press briefing of his own to elaborate on Jaitley’s announcement, Union Water Resources Minister Nitn Gadkari said he regretted the projects had yet to take off even though the United Progressive Alliance government had approved the project back in 2009.
“I do not want to say much further on the issue… Had they been implemented, swathes of agricultural land in Punjab would have been saved from water-logging due to seepages in canals over all these years. The danger is that if the water-logged land are not reclaimed soon, they could lose their fertility,” Gadkari said.
Crediting former chief minister patriarch Parkash Singh Badal with lobbying for the project, Gadkari said: “Badal sahib had talked to me twice regarding the project”.
BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal applauded the central government for sanctioning projects for relining of Sirhind and Rajasthan feeder canals. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and his union minister wife Harsimrat Kaur, who flanked Gadkari at the press briefing, took turns to address the press and then fielded questions.
Sukhbir Badal said the projects were the “life-line” for both Punjab and Rajasthan, and appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for its sanction.
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