Blaming the Akalis for the control of the Ghaggar river going to the Central Water Commission (CWC), Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said he would meet central ministers and officials to press for reinforcement of the embankments of the river, which had breached causing serious damage to standing crop and other assets in Sangrur and Patiala.

The division of Punjab by the Akalis in 1966 had led to Punjab’s Ghaggar going into the hands of the CWC, causing the state to lose control over the critical maintenance of its embankments, the CM said, adding that the Akalis had even stopped the river reinforcement work undertaken by him in his previous term.

His government in the last term had completed 22 km of reinforcement of the embankments, after which work was suspended by the previous SAD-BJP government, he added.

Calling upon Haryana to join hands to resolve the issue, the CM said the bandhs of the Ghaggar on both Punjab and Haryana sides need to be strengthened and made motorable, wherever possible, to avoid repeat of the floods, and the attendant losses and misery.

Pointing out that Punjab had submitted its proposal before the CWC for taming the Ghaggar six years ago, the CM said the CWC in March 2019 had ordered a feasibility study by an independent agency like Central Water and Power Research Station, Pune.

He said he would ask the Centre to direct the CWC to give the necessary clearance expeditiously to allow Punjab to undertake Phase 2 of the project from Makror Sahib to Karail (17.5 km).

Amarinder was speaking with farmers and media at Moonak in Sangrur and Badshahpur in Patiala after taking an aerial view to assess the damage caused as a result of the flooding caused by a breach in the Ghaggar river catchment area, following torrential rains.

The CM, who flew over Rajpura, Ghanaur and Shutrana before stopping over at Moonak, said about 50,000 acres of crop had been lost in Patiala and another 10,000 acres in Sangrur due to the breach.

Amarinder said he had been seeing the problem since his childhood in Moonak, which he described as his ‘nanihal’, underlined the need to reinforce the bandhs to prevent flooding and damage.

A special girdawari is under way to assess the crop damage and would be complete as soon as the water receded, the CM said, promising adequate compensation against all losses. The compensation, he said, would be released the day he received the report on the girdawari.

The Ghaggar was creating problems even in Bathinda, where even the police lines were under water, said Amarinder, adding that the district had received the highest rainfall in 40 years, causing the water to flow at very high levels.

In Moonak, the CM ordered the DC to pay immediate compensation to the 28 houses damaged, three of them completely, as a result of the flooding. He directed the officials to send the fire brigade and JCB machines today itself to raise the roads, and also instructed the Mandi Board to commence work without delay.

The CM assured the people that his government had adequate disaster relief funds to tackle the situation. The local administration, the Army, the National Disaster Relief Force and the locals had been working hard round the clock to plug the canal breach, he said.

Later, expressing sorrow at the loss of crops in Badshahpur, Amarinder said he felt saddened to see the damage in Patiala villages, which he had been visiting since he was a child. Fortunately, there was no loss of human life or cattle, said Amarinder, adding that a few people had been injured and were being provided treatment by the government. He assured construction of 33 kucha houses that had been damaged in the flooding.

The CM thanked the 1st Armoured Division of the Army based in Patiala for the help extended to the district administration in providing relief to the people.

Amarinder also announced Rs 60 lakh for rebuilding the bridge that had been damaged at Sirkapda village of Ghanaur. He also acceded to the request that the mandi at Badshahpur be made pucca before the arrival of the next crop.

Usually flooding took place in these areas in September, but with the weather patterns changing, it was becoming difficult to make any predictions, the CM said, warning that though water had receded for now, it was important to be prepared for any eventuality.

Earlier, Shutrana MLA Nirmal Singh apprised the CM of the extent of damage to crops and property in the villages of the Assembly constituency due to the breach.