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Centre says no to gravity water scheme for Shimla

Window open for revision,but Virbhadra Singh,Vidya Stokes push for separate proposals

Written by Ashwani Sharma | Shimla | Published: December 12, 2013 11:34 pm

Ashwani Sharma

Conceived way back in 1994-95 and proposed for World Bank (WB) funding in February 2009,the ambitious gravity water supply scheme for Shimla to meet the town’s additional water requirements till 2035,has been rejected by the Centre.

This blow comes despite the state’s Irrigation and Public Health (IPH) minister Vidya Stokes’s strong lobbying with Union Finance minister P. Chidambaram to clear the Rs 1,417 crore scheme which envisaged bringing water to Shimla from glacier-fed Pabbar river through a 139 km-long pipeline.

The decision of the Centre was conveyed to the government in a letter dated Nov 21,2013 written by Dr. Arvind Mayaram,secretary Department of Economic Affairs (Ministry of Finance),who said the state government has lost the chance for bilateral funding for Pabbar gravity water supply scheme as it was not properly followed-up by the state government.

However,he left a window open for seeking a revised proposal,which will require a long exercise between Planning Commission and the DoEA. His letter says “in case the state government feels strongly to take-up the implementation and funding of the scheme,it should prepare a fresh proposal and submit it to the ministry of economic affairs”.

Vidya Stokes said,“I met Chidambaram recently and submitted a letter giving him detailed facts about feasibility of the scheme. It is a much better scheme than Kol Dam ( lifting of water from Satluj river),which involves huge financial liability on its pumping works. Pabbar scheme does not require such cost.”

However,the Union Minister told her it was too late to do anything at this stage,she said.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has in fact been pushing a separate proposal with the Centre for bilateral funding of a Rs 516-crore Kol Dam scheme by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). He met the Union Urban Development minister,Kamal Nath,and sought approval for the scheme under foreign funding.

Highly placed sources said the IPH department has drawn-up a separate cost analysis of the two schemes. The proposal given to the Chief minister shows that Pabbar water supply scheme involves a very high cost of Rs 1,344.17 crores as compared to Rs 378.41 crore on the Kol Dam.

As per the note,for the Pabbar proposal,“More than 22.84 hectares of forest land and 5.72 hectres of orchards will come under double pipeline of 139 km from the source,which will not be sustainable. It will also have a difficult terrain and the mountains pose a problem in execution and maintenance whereas Kol Dam supply will have only 22 km water supply line and is fully sustainable.”

Yet another analysis given to Stokes also supports her stand that Pabbar gravity scheme was the best as compared to Kol Dam,which will involve a high cost of Rs 80.99 crore only on its operation and maintenance as compared to a much lower Rs 17.14 crores of the Pabbar scheme.

This cost comparison tells a different story.“The capital cost difference of Rs 471 crore on Pabbar project will be set off by annual loss of Rs 63.85 crores in seven-and-a -half years in Satluj project. Over 30 years,the operation loss will be Rs 1915 crores in Satluj project,” it reads.

When contacted Stokes claimed that she was not averse to alternate proposal sent by the Chief Minister but believed that Pabbar scheme is much better option.

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