Sant Kumar Sharma
The Jal Shakti Ministry of the Central government has cleared a project envisaging an expenditure of Rs 9,167 crore for a project on Ujh river in Kathua district. This was declared a national project way back in 2008, and all the expenses will be borne by the Centre. After the revised DPRs, the total command area (for irrigation) would be 40,716 hectares, instead of 16,743 hectares as per the old plans. This is a very substantial increase and help improve the incomes of the beneficiaries who will gain irrigation facilities. The Ujh Multi Purpose Project (UMPP) has been hanging fire for over a few now, and gets discussed time and again. With no concrete results till date. This may, however, be set to change now mainly because this water is going as waste and run-off to Pakistan.
Total water available: 780 MCM Quantum of water harnessed in earlier DPRs: 250 MCM, Approminately 32 to 33 per cent Project cost: Approminately Rs 5,800 crore Quantum of water harnessed in revised DPRs: 700 MCM, Approximately 90 per cent Additional quantum of water harnessed: 450 MCM, Approximately 60 per cent additionality Project cost: Rs 9,167 crore Increase in costs Price escalation: Rs 500 cr Infrastructure in additional command area canals: Rs 1,200 cr Money needed for widening canal: Rs 1,300 cr. The last point made here regarding widening of the canal would mean the carrying capacity would improve. Far larger volumes of water would be transported now. As such, an additional spending of Rs 3,000 crores would be required. However, instead of harnessing only 250 MCM of water, which is around 32 per cent of available 780 MCM, now 700 MCM, approximately 90 per cent, will be harnessed for providing irrigation facilities and drinking water to lakhs of people.
It will be one way of indirectly punishing our hostile neighbour as all this water, Indian share under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was being used for decades by it. The issue assumed urgency after the Pulwama attack of February 14 last year. The Jal Shakti Ministry had issued a statement on February 22 that it will maker fuller use of the Indian share of waters available under the IWT. Incidentally, there is 780 MCM (Million Cubic Metre) water available in Ujh but the earlier DPRs (Detailed Project Reports) planned for utilisation of only a fraction of this, 250 MCM water to be exact. When this fact was discussed, among engineers and top bureacrats, it was decided not to start the project according to earlier sanctioned DPRs. These plans had envisaged an expenditure of approximately Rs 5,800 crore. After hectic parleys, it was decided that the project needed to be scaled up substantially. For that, concurrences were needed from different quarters, including political leadership, as also new DPRs. These were prepared in Jammu and PHE Commissioner/Secretary Ajeet Sahu was involved all through in the exercise. Arun Gandotra, who has now retired, was Chief Engineer of Public Health Engineering (PHE) department at that time. His colleagues, mainly KK Gupta, Executive Engineer, played an important role in revision of the DPRs. Recalling those day, Gupta says: For us, it was like a dream come true as we knew that far more water was available. We also calculated that several new unirrigated areas could get irrigation facilities by unpscaling of the project. This upscaling of the project cleared by Jal Shakti Ministry means newer and additional areas in Sumb, Samba, Vijaypur and Bari Brahamna, with at least 121 villages of Samba district alone, getting irrigation. This will be possible as the volume of pondage has gone up very substantially. Initially, the main obstacle in start of Rs 5,800 crore project was the additional availability of water and no plans being made for harnessing it. With only 250 MCM of water being utilised out of a total quantum of 780 MCM available water, the rest of it would have gone into Pakistan as run-off. This was something that has been happening all these years since the IWT was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960, close to 60 years ago. Incidentally, under the IWT, we can fully harness Ujh as a tributary of Ravi river, one of the three Eastern Rivers allocated to India. The new DPRs, which have been approved now, provide for coverage of more command areas, including some in Billawar tehsil of Kathua district. These areas were not covered earlier, meaning thereby that there were no plans for providing irrigation facilities there. The earlier DPRs were made for utilisation of only 32 or 33 per cent of the water available. The new DPRs, on the other hand, seek to utilise about 90% of the available water. The clearance from the officials of the different Central ministries, mainly Jal Shakti ministry, has been received as they know that the project has been upscaled substantially. After seeing the new DPRs, they were convinced that the new DPRs were better than those they had cleared. …
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