Professor Harbans Lal Uppal was a renowned scientist from Punjab. He designed the Bakhra Dam, considered one of the largest of its kind in India, and traced the route of almost all rivers in Punjab. But the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is all set to demolish a part of Uppal’s dream project: A landscape model of the rivers of northern rivers in India.
The reason? The university cannot find anyone capable of completing the project. “Honestly, we do not have the money or the expertise to complete that museum. Uppal was a legendary man who had a vision that no soil or water scientist has now. Four years were spent to complete the museum after his death. A proposal to build a hostel or use space for other purpose is under consideration,”said Dr H S Thind, head of soil sciences department. The university is planning to build a girls hostel over it instead.
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The model, Land, Water and Power Resources of Punjab and its Adjacent State, is located in the university and covers an area of almost 1,000 sq yards – the area of a football field. It is a one-of-its-kind model that attract students, scientists and researchers who wish to gain practical knowledge of the Himalayas and the rivers Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej and Beas.
Uppal worked on the first phase of the model from 1997 to 1989. Work was on to extend the details of the model to cover rivers and ranges in the north-western region of the country but Uppal’s death in 1996 stalled the project.
Since then, the incomplete model remained as a sign of the failure of the university authorities to find a person capable of taking the late scientist’s dream forward. Although the idea of a girls’ hostel seems to be a good idea to many in the university, civil engineers said that it may not be economically wise.
“We have been asked to demolish the models of hills and mountains built there and fill almost 4 feet with fresh soil. It is going to eat up a lot of money. Completing the museum is a better idea,” said a source from PAU engineering department.
“Uppalji’s daughter visited the museum few years back and she was very unhappy that why work has not been completed. She wanted PAU to complete the model on which his father worked so hard, gave his entire life,” said a caretaker at the Museum.
There are some who believe that the project was part of PAU’s identity.
“The historic botanical garden was destroyed with herbs and plants as old as 100 years uprooted and a new auditorium came up there. Now another identity of PAU is being destroyed,” said a scientist.
“It is nothing more than killing a piece of our history. There are various other sites where hostels can be built, why only where Uppal saw a dream? A dream to educate the children practically. Ideally, the model should be completed,” said, Dr M S Kang, former vice-chancellor of PAU.