By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 9 Jul: Uttarakhand is pinning its hopes on financial aid from the Centre for the Saung River and Jamrani Multipurpose Dam projects. A meeting in this respect is scheduled to be held at the PMO on Thursday, in which, senior officers from Uttarakhand as well as UP will participate. It is after a long time of 43 years that there is fresh hope for the Jamrani Dam Project on the Gola River to finally take shape. Similarly, there is also fresh hope regarding the multi-purpose Saung River Dam project in Dehradun, which is expected to take care of drinking water requirements of the district and also ensure significant rise in area under irrigation. The major reason behind the fresh hope is the focus on greater conservation and utilisation of water resources announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It may be recalled that the Modi Government in its new innings has created a new Ministry called ‘Jal Shakti’ by merging Ministries of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation along with those of Drinking Water and Sanitation. The move aims to bring all aspects of water management and regulation under one department. With the formation of the new ministry, Uttarakhand is hoping for a generous grant from the Centre on 90:10 basis for both these projects. It may be recalled that the newly elected MP from Nainital and BJP State President Ajay Bhatt had raised the issue in his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha and demanded that the Centre take up the Jamrani Dam as a Central project. Sources in the Uttarakhand Government feel that this is an opportune moment for the state to get central funding, since the Centre has now announced focus on better conservation and utilisation of water resources in the country. It may be recalled that the Jamrani project, when conceptualised in 1974, was expected to cost Rs 400 crores but since it failed to get funds as well as forest clearances, it never progressed much beyond the initial stage. Later on, some clearances were obtained and a residential colony for the officials of the departments concerned including those of irrigation and drinking water was also constructed. However, the forest clearance was not granted and the paucity of funds also threw a spanner in the works, stalling the project at the very start itself. Unofficial sources, however, also claim that mining the mafia were also behind the stalling of the project, then, since the Gola River was a goldmine for them. Even at present, illegal extraction of sand and stones is still being carried out on a grand scale from the river banks. The Jamrani Dam project is certain to disrupt the illegal mining activity in the region. As a result of cost escalation since then, the project is now estimated to cost Rs 2574 crores as per the revised DPR, which has been sanctioned in principle by the Central Water Commission, which is the first stage of clearance. The project is planned to come up on River Gola on the outskirts of Haldwani city about 10 kilometres upstream of Kathgodam and is expected to fulfil the drinking water and irrigation needs of Nainital and US Nagar districts for several decades. Of course, UP is expected to be a greater beneficiary of the project as far as coverage of irrigation area is concerned. Uttarakhand is expected to get additional irrigation coverage of about 13,000 hectares, while UP is expected to get additional coverage in irrigation to the extent of 47,600 hectares. The drinking water supply will be restricted to Uttarakhand. The project will involve construction of a roller compacted type dam and a live reservoir of capacity 1443 lakh cubic metres, which will supply the Kumaon region with 52.5 Million Cubic Metres of drinking water. Additionally, power generation of 30 MW is also expected from the dam at the initial stage. Sources however reveal that, in case the Centre agrees to fund the project and all the remaining clearances are granted, power generation will not be the reason since the project entails only a small power generation capacity of 30 MW. According to the DPR, 52 percent of the cost is expected to be borne by UP while the remaining 48 percent of the cost is to be borne by Uttarakhand. However, the state is now pursuing central assistance for the project. Some months earlier, the then Finance Minister Prakash Pant had told this correspondent that the state would seek central assistance of around Rs 850 crores for the project. However, sources are claiming that the state would now seek full central assistance to the project or for central assistance in the ratio of 90: 10, since Uttarakhand was a resources strapped state. It may be further recalled that, in November last year, the Uttarakhand High Court had directed the UP and Uttarakhand Governments to go ahead with the project and complete the project within the next three years. This direction had been given by the High Court Bench comprising of the then acting Chief Justice Rajeev Sharma and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma hearing a PIL filed by a Haldwani resident. If the project is sanctioned for central assistance on Thursday or anytime soon, it will still involve reconstruction of several canals totalling a length of over 450 km, flowing from the present Gola Barrage and upgradation of the Barrage as well as reconstruction of several existing reservoirs built along the Gola River. The Saung Dam project, on the other hand, was conceptualised much later and is expected to fulfil the drinking water requirements of Dehradun district for the next five decades. Presently, much of the drinking water supply in Dehradun is dependent on tubewells bored across the city and its outskirts. In 2008, when the project was seriously pursued for the first time, the project was estimated to cost around Rs 534 crores. The project is now estimated to cost around Rs 1100 crores. It may be recalled that, the then Irrigation Secretary, Vinod Fonia had taken a keen personal interest in the project and had also ensured sanctions from the Central Water Commission, the forest and environment departments, etc. However, the government did not take up the project due to lack of funds. The Multipurpose Saung River Project is proposed to be constructed on the Saung River in Sodhna village at Maldevta (Raipur Block) at the cost of Rs 534 crores. It is proposed to construct a 148.25 metre high dam and a 4 km long lake at Maldevta for the project. It would supply 76.46 Million Litres of water per day during the initial phase and 256.02 MCM of water per annum by the year 2050. Besides fulfilling the drinking water requirement of Doon Valley, the project will hold good potential for development of fishery projects and also becoming a major tourist attraction in Doon. The project will require about 83.85 hectares of land which is to be acquired. About 50 families are going to be affected by the project in 2 villages (Gharsar and Rangar). As per the DPR, 38 acres of land is to be given to the affected farmers in an alternate location and a compensation of Rs 2.20 crores paid to them at the current circle rates. The project will also have a power generation capacity of 6 MW. It is estimated that it would generate 38.5 MUs of power per unit. The project is expected to take about 4 years to complete.