Punjab buckles under severe waterlogging, drainage department struggles with funds

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
Waterlogged streets of Jalandhar.

DESPITE PUNJAB facing a flood-like situation due to torrential rain in several areas this monsoon season, the drainage department has till date received only half of the Rs 100 crore that the government had approved as funds for preventive measures and repair work.

Several parts of the state have faced waterlogging and resultant crop damage. The water-logging has also led to damage of properties in some parts of the Malwa region, and the Ghaggar river is overflowing due to a breach.

Ahead of monsoon season, all deputy commissioners (DCs) had submitted a proposed budget for cleaning and repairing of drains, strengthening of bandhs on rivers, local canals and nullahs.

The drainage department of Punjab had demanded around Rs 300 crore from the state government to strengthen river sides, dhussi bandh on rivers and clean drains. But the government sanctioned only Rs 100 crore. Out of this only Rs 50 crore has been released just a few days ago, said sources in the department.

We have been asked to repair only the most vulnerable points and ignore others because of paucity of funds, said a drainage official in the Doaba region.

We have got some of the major drains cleaned and left the remaining. Some vulnerable points of the dhussi bandh on Beas and Sutlej have been taken care of. The rest were left because we have not paid the contractors hired for this work, said an executive engineer in drainage department.

In Punjab, there are 1,800 km-long flood protection embankments, 3,800 river training works and a 7,200 km drainage network to prevent rain water from submerging farmland. There are also several hundreds of flood-prone sites that require maintenance. But right now we can focus only on priority projects as they aren t enough funds, said an officer.

Chief Engineer and Head of Punjab Drainage Department, Sanjiv Kumar Gupta said, Repair and strengthening works are going on. The government has released Rs 50 crore and payments for works already done will be made from this amount. The remaining funds will come soon.

In Punjab, there are three main perennial rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi and a non-perennial river Ghaggar. There are also several seasonal streams. There are over half a dozen major nullahs including Buddha Nullah, and an over 14,000 km-long canal system. These are to be managed by the drainage department. Social worker Jai Gopal Dhiman said he has been taking up poor maintenance of canals in Hoshiarpur with the government for a long time, but to no avail.

Punjab Water Resources Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria did not respond to calls and messages. However, a drainage department official said that due to an earlier prediction of a weak monsoon this year, the government had not foreseen such a situation and committed a smaller amount.