What is the artificial lake project?
Due to the extraction of sand and boulders, and the retreat of its source, the Kali Kundi glacier in Bhaderwah, the Tawi remains dry along a large part of its 300-km course for most of the year. The project was conceived in 2006-08, when Ghulam Nabi Azad was chief minister. Azad told the assembly that a barrage would be built near Gujjar Nagar, and the lake would stretch to the Sidhrah Bypass bridge. The project was sanctioned by the Centre in 2010 under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme. But the state government decided to shift the 4-metre gated barrage to Bhagwati Nagar, so the lake fringe moved to the Gujjar Nagar bridge. There were allegations that this was done to benefit a Congress minister in the then Omar Abdullah government.
Who was to execute the project? At what estimated cost?
Initial estimate was Rs 50 crore, and the state Irrigation and Flood Control Department was to complete the project by July 2012. The estimate was revised to Rs 70 crore, and the deadline was extended first to July 2013 and subsequently, to December 2013, March 2014 and finally, July 2014.
What is the present status of the lake?
Nearly Rs 50 lakh have been spent, but the Urban Environmental Engineering and Flood Control Departments are yet to start work to divert 17 nullahs flowing into the river from the city, and to raise the embankments along its banks. Also, Pakistan has claimed that building the artificial lake violates the Indus Water Treaty.
What is the latest development?
A fortnight ago, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed told reporters that the artificial lake project was not viable either financially or technically, and, like the Chenab, the lake would be filled with silt every rainy season. This upset those who saw it as a ploy by ‘Kashmir’ to deprive Jammu of a tourism development project.
Where does the BJP stand?
BJP ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, have rejected Mufti’s statement, and assured that the lake would be constructed at its identified site. They have been claiming the backing of Uma Bharti, union Minister for Water Resources.
What happens now?
Despite the assertions of the BJP, the state government has not clarified on the issue. Resentment is building up among voters who last year gave an unprecedented election mandate to the BJP. After Wednesday’s bandh, there have been threats of an intensified agitation unless the BJP ministers in Mufti government clarified their stand in the next 10 days.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines