At a time when state is reeling under financial crunch, the report submitted by Committee on Environment of J&K Legislative Council, headed by its Chairman, Dr Syed Bashir Ahmad Veeri surprised many.
The committee visited 600 MW Ranjit Sagar Dam Project, commissioned in 2000, and took stock of the environmental issues aroused following the implementation of the project. The situation according to the report is grim.
Expressing concern, the committee recommended that Government should taken up the matter with Punjab Government for proper implementation of agreements reached between two Governments in 1973 and 1979, compensation for damage and the losses suffered by State Government besides water and electricity share due for the State as per the agreement.
Giving details, Dr Veeri said that Punjab Government has not fulfilled the commitments envisaged in the agreements resulting the State of Jammu and Kashmir has to suffer heavy losses on this account. Expressing concern over the damaged caused to environment, he said approximately 12 lakh trees, including 3 lakh forest trees, have been cut in the area but the subsequent afforestation has not been executed at the scale it should have been done, he added. “Our wildlife, biodiversity and environment has suffered a lot” said Dr Veeri and exhorted for starting environment conservation measures in order to maintain ecological balance in the area.
The Chairman said that 85 per cent of States’ resources have been utilized in the project but the share due for our State is not extended in accordance with the commitments and the agreements signed to this effect. He said 8579 persons of 1802 families dwelling in 22 villages of Kathua district have been affected by the project. He said only 700 persons have been absorbed in the project against 1100 agreed by Punjab Government.
Dr Bashir said that agriculture the main sector which has been affected by the project, adding that 53000 hectares are facing acute shortage of irrigation during Rabi and Kharief seasons. He said the delaying attitude in construction of Shahpur Kandi Barrage adopted by Punjab Government had put our farmers in dire straits, and has added miseries to the farmers of kandi belt of Kathua, Samba and Hiranagar. He cautioned if concrete and timely measures are not initiated by the State Government, it will badly affect rice production of the State and the economy of the farmers getting irrigation facilities from this dam.
Regarding power share due for the State, the Committee astonished to know that a single unit of electricity, out of 600 MW, has been made available to the State despite 20 per cent of generation capacity of the project.
Dr Veeri said that the losses suffered by the State due to breach of agreement by Punjab Government, has been tentatively calculated to the tune of over Rs. 17000 crore since the commissioning of the project and demanded for evolving a mechanism for its recovery from Punjab Government.
The Committee recommended that Government should vigorously pursue with the Punjab Government for getting the share as per the agreement reached between two Governments and hoped that it will give a big relief to the power deficit State and the farmers of the area once State will succeed in getting implemented the agreement in letter and spirit.