CHANDIGARH: The Punjab government has initiated an investigation into the startling discovery that approximately 1400 kilometers of canals and rivers have gone "missing" across the state. These historical waterways, established during the British colonial period, have long remained unaccounted for, and their disappearance largely went unnoticed. The revelation came to light as the Water Resources Department undertook a review of departmental records, uncovering the extensive disappearance of waterways, most of which have fallen victim to unchecked urban expansion.
It's worth noting that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann launched the "Har Khet Pani" campaign several months ago, aiming to provide canal water access to as many agricultural farms as possible. The Chief Minister had also instructed the Water Resources Department to identify department-owned properties to address illegal encroachments.
Significantly, The Current data indicates that Punjab boasts approximately 13,000 kilometers of canals. The introduction of free electricity for the agricultural sector in Punjab led to a reduction in the demand for canal water, and the utilization of river water also saw a decline. Unfortunately, this neglect of water resources resulted in a deepening of groundwater levels, leading to the declaration of hundreds of blocks as "dark zones" due to over-extraction.
In response to this alarming situation, Water Resources Minister Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer convened a meeting to gather information about the missing canals and waterways. Subsequently, the Principal Secretary of the Water Resources Department, Krishna Kumar, launched an extensive effort to compile records of all departmental assets, with the goal of safeguarding the properties owned by the canal department.
Records have revealed that a staggering 60 percent of the missing 1400 kilometers of waterways have been encroached upon by burgeoning urban areas, resulting in their virtual disappearance. Cities such as Jalandhar have witnessed the vanishing of several vital waterways, and Ludhiana's Sarabha Chowk is among the affected areas. The Search for 100 kilometers of missing waterways is currently underway in Patiala district, while in Bathinda district, residential structures have been erected on what was once a riverbed, a situation that escaped the notice of the canal department for an extended period.