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How to tame swollen Ghaggar? Flood fear looms but consensus eludes Punjab, Haryana

Ghaggar river, which is already flowing above the danger mark, is expected to swell further with the forecast of more showers in the coming days.

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Chandigarh: Wreaking havoc with large swathes of agricultural land in Punjab, Ghaggar, a rain-fed river, is now threatening to create a flood-like situation in Haryana as well, but no agreement has been reached yet between the two states to tackle the situation.

The swollen river is expected to bloat further with the meteorological department predicting more showers in the two states in the coming days.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Tuesday conducted an aerial survey of the worst flood-affected areas in Moonak in Sangrur, and Patran in Patiala.

A 50-foot breach was spotted last week in the embankment of Ghaggar at Moonak’s Phulad village that led to inundation of thousands of acres of agriculture land. Army and National Disaster Response Force units were called in to plug the breach.

Crops on over 48,024 acres land in Patiala and 21,775 acres in Sangrur were destroyed, affecting 228 villages in Patiala alone.

Known as the ‘river of sorrow’ in both Punjab and Haryana, Ghaggar originates from Shivaliks in Himachal Pradesh and then travels 197 km through Punjab crossing into Haryana and eventually drying up in Rajasthan. It swells every year during monsoon.


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No consensus between Punjab and Haryana yet

On Thursday, Patiala MP Preneet Kaur met Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat seeking channelisation of a 17.5-km stretch of Ghaggar. Kaur handed over a memorandum to the minister, urging him to ask the Haryana government to give early approval for the work.

Punjab has already channelised a stretch of 22.45 km of the river from Khanauri village to Makror Sahib in 2009-2010.

Haryana is, however, vehemently opposed to the idea of channelisation, and Punjab cannot undertake any further construction until Haryana approves the project through the CWC.

“Channelisation is one of the causes of floods in Punjab. The area in which the river water has to move is limited by channelisation and this increases its velocity. This leads to breaching of the embankments,” said Haryana’s Secretary, Irrigation, Anurag Rastogi.

“If we allow the rest of the stretch to be channelised in Punjab, flooding will take place in Haryana. What Punjab is facing now will be our fate,” he added.

Punjab’s channelisation project has been pending with the CWC for six years now following objections raised by Haryana. In March this year, the CWC had ordered a feasibility study of the project by an independent agency.

Political blame game

Captain Amarinder blamed the Akalis for allowing control of the river to go to the CWC in the first place.

“Akalis did not carry out the channelisation project, which I had initiated in my previous terms,” he said.

As an immediate alternative to the idea of channelisation, Punjab has proposed that embankments of the river in both Punjab and Haryana be strengthened and made motorable, wherever possible.

“I have spoken to Haryana’s irrigation secretary Anurag Rastogi and we are ready to sit across the table and talk about a solution acceptable to both the sides,” said Punjab’s irrigation secretary Sarvjit Singh.

Punjab, on the other hand, has been objecting to the construction of three dams in Haryana — Diwanwala, Dangrana and Chhamla — on Ghaggar since 2008, saying that it would limit the flow of water into the state for irrigation purposes.

“If Punjab agrees that these dams be constructed, we can start work on them tomorrow,” said Rastogi.


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