Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Tuesday blamed Akalis for the repercussions of the Ghaggar breach, saying that the state lost control over maintenance of the river’s embankments after SAD had handed it over to the Central Water Commission (CWC) during its regime.
The breach was finally plugged Tuesday, after six days of floods that damaged several acres of farmland and property in Sangrur and Patiala districts.
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Interacting with farmers at Moonak, Amarinder said that earlier, control of the Ghaggar was with the state government but the division of Punjab by Akalis in 1966 had led to river going into the hands of the CWC. He added that he will meet central government ministers and officials to press for reinforcement of the river’s embankments.
“Akalis had even stopped the river reinforcement work undertaken by me in my previous term. The Congress government during my last term had completed 22 km reinforcement of the embankments, after which all work was suspended by the previous SAD-BJP government,” he further alleged.
The chief minister pegged the loss of crop due to floods at around 60,000 acres in Sangrur and Patiala. Figures the agriculture department had released on Monday had indicated damage of more than 21,000 acres only by flood water (due to the breach). He also did an aerial survey of affected areas in Moonak, Sangrur, as well as Patiala. The Ghaggar breach damaged around 60 houses.
A cause for worry
The Ghaggar has a zig-zag course, while 22 km of it has been widened, the remaining 17 km is yet to be as part of it goes through Haryana. This will be tricky as it creates a difference in water pressure and hence, the risk of another breach. There had been similar breaches in 2010 and 2015.
Calling upon Haryana to join hands to resolve the issue, the chief minister said that the bandhs of the Ghaggar on both the Punjab and Haryana sides need to be strengthened and made motorable wherever possible to avoid a repeat of flooding. He further said Punjab had submitted its proposal before the CWC for taming of the Ghaggar six years ago. “The CWC had in March this year ordered a feasibility study by an independent agency, the Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune,” he said, adding that he would ask the Centre to direct CWC to give the necessary clearance expeditiously to allow Punjab to undertake the second phase of the project from Makror Sahib to Karail (17.5 km).
Recalling his childhood days in this area, the CM said he had seen floods at that time as well.
Damage to property, infrastructure
Amarinder confirmed that 28 houses in Moonak and 6 in Suraj Bhaini had suffered damages, and that three among them had been completely destroyed. He asked deputy commissioner to release immediate compensation to the affected. He also interacted with farmers and media at Badhshahpur in Patiala, flew over Rajoura, Ghanaur and Shatrana before stopping over at Moonak.
“Fortunately, there was no loss of human life or cattle,” said the CM, adding that a few people had been injured in Patiala and were being provided medical treatment by the government. He assured construction of 33 kucha houses that had been damaged in Patiala. “A special girdwarai (assessment) is underway to assess crop damage and will be complete as soon as water recedes. Compensation will be released the day the report comes to my table,” he said, adding that the Ghaggar was getting water from hills and as it had rained heavily in the hills, heavy flow of water had caused at the breach at a weak point.
Flood water had damaged many link roads and cut off villages from the main city for five days. Hence, the CM directed officials to send the fire brigade and JCB machines to raise the roads, and the Mandi Board to commence work on the same without delay.
Enough funds, says CM
Amarinder claimed that his government had adequate disaster relief funds to tackle the situation. He also expressed gratitude to the 1st Armoured Division of the Army, based in Patiala, for the help extended to the district administration to provide relief to the people.
The CM announced Rs 60 lakh for rebuilding a bridge that had been damaged in Sirkapda village of Ghanaur. In response to a request, he announced that the Mandi in Badshahur would be made ‘pucca’ before arrival of the next crop.