March 2017 News

J&K, Punjab Ink Historic Agreement On Water, Power Sharing

4 March 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Bringing to an end nearly four-decades long animosity, Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab Governments today reached a historic agreement on Shahpur Kandi project, which would provide 20 per cent electricity and 1150 cusecs water to J&K besides bearing expenditure cost for construction of canal that would convert Kandi belt of major parts of Kathua and Samba districts into irrigated land. The agreement, which eluded due to rigid stand adopted by successive State Governments on insisting for Rs 8000 crores worth compensation from Punjab for losses suffered by it over the years due to denial of power and water share to the State, was signed in New Delhi today after Union Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ministry headed by Uma Bharti brokered the deal between the two States on intervention of the Prime Minister's Office, top official sources told the Excelsior. Punjab's Additional Chief Secretary (Revenue and Irrigation) KBS Sindhu and Secretary Irrigation KS Pannu, J&K's Commissioner-Secretary, PHE, Irrigation and Flood Control, Sourabh Bhagat and Central Water Resources Commission, a Central body, representative Dr Amarjit Singh inked the agreement, which would benefit huge population living in Pathankot, Kathua and Samba districts in terms of irrigation while the State Government would get 20 per cent electricity, generated by the project, at the cost of just Rs 3.5 per unit and 1150 cusecs water. J&K Chief Secretary BR Sharma and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister BB Vyas joined the talks through video conferencing. The Central Government had to intervene to bring the two States on board following serious differences between the two, which was making the common people of Kathua and Samba, the neighbouring districts of Gurdaspur, Punjab, where the project is located, suffer. The deal had remained elusive as all previous State Governments in J&K had insisted on Rs 8000 crores worth compensation from Punjab for the losses suffered by J&K on account of power and water, which Punjab had to give to the State in lieu of construction of Shahpur Kandi project. Punjab had outrightly rejected J&K demand for compensation of previous losses but had agreed to give power and water in future to the State. As per 1979 agreement, Punjab had to give 20% power, 15% employment and 1150 cusecs water to J&K as 60% area in Ranjit Sagar dam, which submerged, belonged to Basohli tehsil of Kathua district. However, Punjab scrapped the agreement in 1984. About 1100 families of Basohli, whose land was submerged, were still fighting the battle for employment. After Ranjit Sagar dam completion, Shahpur Kandi project was taken up. Punjab will construct 2.3 kms long canal from the project while rest has to be constructed by the State Government. As deadlock persisted between the two States, Minister of State in PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, who also represents Kathua district in Lok Sabha, took up the matter at the highest level, which today resulted into signing of tripartite agreement on 206 MW and Rs 2285 cr worth Shahpur Kandi project. As per broad contours of the agreement signed by Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab in the presence of Central Government representative, Punjab would bear entire expenditure for construction of Shahpur Kandi canal in Jammu covering Kathua and Samba districts, which would irrigate huge chunk of land in Billawar, Basohli, Kathua, Hiranagar and Samba and convert Kandi belt into irrigated belt. Besides, Punjab would also give 20 per cent electricity generated from Shahpur Kandi power project to Jammu and Kashmir at the cost of just Rs 3.5 per unit and 1150 cusecs water. In turn, J&K would have to give up the demand of Rs 8000 crores worth compensation and treat as settled all the pending issues pertaining to the project. Sources said Punjab has kept budgetary provision for construction of canal. An official handout posted by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), New Delhi, on its website after the two sides signed an agreement, said: 'in a major step today towards utilization of India's rights on Eastern rivers of Indus basin, the mediation efforts of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation persuaded the States of J&K and Punjab to reach an agreement to resume works on Shahpur Kandi Dam project in Punjab- J&K. 'The project was being built with an estimated cost of Rs. 2285.81 crore (April, 2008 price level) and is included in the Scheme of National Projects by Government of India. Under the scheme, the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, headed by Uma Bharti will provide Central assistance at the rate of 90 per cent of the balance cost of works component of irrigation and water supply'. The PIB handout said the construction of Shahpur Kandi project was taken up in May 1999 but later halted in 2014 due to dispute between Punjab and J&K. The Ministry of Water Resources had been making all out efforts to resolve the issues and resume construction which resulted in yesterday's agreement. The project was conceived in late seventies and since then had been mired in controversies as Punjab had refused to give J&K power and water in lieu of using its share of water 'The design of the project shall be as already agreed by both the States while concurrently model studies will be done to ensure that the mandated share of 1150 cusecs of water is available to the State of J&K, which will be binding on both the States,' the PIB handout said. It added that the project will continue to be implemented by the Government of Punjab. However, there will be a tripartite team headed by Member, Central Water Commission (CWC) and consisting of Chief Engineers of two States to monitor the project as and when required but at least once in three months to ensure that the construction is as per the agreement. 'The balance costs on account of compensation for land acquisition in respect of Thein Dam, as per the agreement would be paid for by the Government of Punjab promptly. In addition, jobs to the oustees would be given by the State Government of Punjab as per the agreed R&R policy of both the State Governments,' the official statement of the PIB said. It said the Government of Punjab would be making available to the Government of J&K 20 per cent share in the total power generated at the Thein Dam at the mutually agreed rate of Rs. 3.50 per unit immediately, subject to the confirmation of the rates by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. 'Both the States agreed that other issues will be referred to Arbitration mechanism provided in the agreement signed between two states of 1979 without affecting the progress of work. It was unanimously agreed that the work on the Shahpur Kandi Dam Project would resume as soon both the State Governments formally approve the agreed decisions,' the official statement said. The 55.5 high Shahpur Kandi dam, located in Gurdaspur district of Punjab, will help in providing irrigation facility to 5000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32173 hectares in J&K besides generation of 206 MW power. The move to resume work will give a boost to the country's strategy to utilize its entire share of waters under the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). Though India had decided not to engage with Pakistan through the Indus Water Commission after the Uri terror attack last year, it has recently decided to resume the dialogue through the Commission whose next meeting will be held in Lahore later this month. The Commission is a mechanism to resolve any dispute between the two countries over sharing of waters of the Indus river system under the Indus Water Treaty+. Under the IWT, signed between the two countries in 1960, the waters of eastern rivers are allocated to India. Though India is under obligation to let the waters of the western rivers (Indus, Jhelum and Chenab) flow, it is permitted to construct storage of water on western rivers up to 3.6 million acre feet (MAF) for various purposes, including domestic use. India has, however, not developed any storage facility so far. India has also not tapped its full quota of water for irrigation under the Treaty. Looking at full exploitation of its rights under the IWT with Pakistan, a high-level inter-ministerial task force had in December last year decided to bring Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir on board for speeding up work on the ground through better co-ordination. Shahpur Kandi Dam Project had been envisaged under the 1979 agreement between the then Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, who is still the Chief Minister and then Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah. Following the completion of the Ranjit Sagar Dam, Shahpur Kandi Dam project was declared a National project in the year 2009 and the work commenced on the site in April, 2013. However, on account of various unresolved issues, the work was halted at the site at the instance of Jammu & Kashmir government. The latest agreement essentially reaffirmed the 1979 agreement and also approved the crest levels of 398.40 m as agreed between the Chief Engineers of the two States. Simultaneously, the Central Water and Power Research Station, Government of India at Pune would carry out detailed study to assess the crest level of the Head Regulators to guarantee that the mandated share of the 1150 cusecs of water would be available to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. While the project would continue to be implemented by the Punjab Irrigation department, there would be a tripartite monitoring team, headed by a Member of the Central Water Commission, that would meet once in a quarter to ensure that the construction was being carried out in accordance with the agreement. The Punjab Government agreed to pay the pending land acquisition enhancement claims expeditiously, as soon as they were approved by the Statutory Authorities under the Land Acquisition Act. In order to allay the apprehension of the Jammu & Kashmir State in respect of the validity of the 1979 agreement following the enactment of the Punjab Termination of Water Agreements Act, 2004, it was decided that a fresh agreement shall be signed between the two States, so that there was no doubt in the mind of any party that the Punjab Act of 2004 had effectively invalidated the 1979 agreement. The Punjab Government reiterated its commitment to construct the balance 2.3 km Ravi Canal and siphon for the Kashmir Canal, co-terminus with the construction of the Shahpur Kandi Dam. All other claims and counter-claims would be resolved under clause 16 of 1979 Agreement, through the arbitration process. The Secretary level agreement would be subject to ratification by the respective State Governments and the work shall recommence on the site immediately thereafter. Meanwhile, Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), who was working for revival of the project ever since he took over as the Union Minister, had taken up the issue at the highest level at the Centre, which resulted into mediation of the Government of India and finally the deal between Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. 'The Kandi belt of Kathua and Samba will no longer be called the Kandi belt as construction of canal from Shahpur Kandi will irrigate the land of Pathankot, Kathua and Samba districts and change fortunes of the people of rural belt, who were waiting for this to happen for the past 30 years but continued to suffer. There would be so much irrigation from the project that it would no longer be called the Kandi belt,' Dr Jitendra Singh told the Excelsior. Apart from this, Dr Jitendra Singh said, the project would also deliver a blow to Pakistan which was getting excess water from river Ravi in Punjab. The flow of excess water to Pakistan would stop once Shahpur Kandi project is constructed, he added. Under the Indus Water Treaty water of Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers of Punjab had come in the share of India while that of Chenab, Jhelum and Indus (Sindhu) was to be shared with Pakistan. After last month's Uri attack, the Centre was considering snapping Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan.