Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are set for a face-off as the 99-year lease on the British-era 110 MW Shanan hydropower project situated at Jogindernagar in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh, presently under the control of the Punjab Government, will expire in March 2024.
The issue may snowball into a major controversy between the two neighbouring States as the Himachal Pradesh Government has made it clear that it will not to renew or extend the lease. Himachal Pradesh wants the project handed over to the State expiry of the lease period. The Punjab Government, on the other hand, is no mood to part with its prized project, and is prepared to take legal recourse to retain it.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu recently wrote a letter to the Punjab Chief Minister, stating that the 99-year lease given to Punjab by the then ruler of Mandi, Raja Joginder Singh Bahadur, would end on March 2, 2024. The Himachal Pradesh Government had decided not to renew or extend the lease period of the project, and intended to take over the project, the letter added. Days after this letter, Mr. Sukhu on May 29 met Union Minister for Power R. K. Singh and asked for the Centre’s intervention, indicating Himachal Pradesh’s serious pursuit of the matter.
Mr. Sukhu asked the Union Minister to issue “necessary directions to the Punjab government for taking mandatory steps for handing over the project to the State before the expiry of the lease period, which as per the lease agreement would be over in March 2024”.
Punjab, on the other hand, maintains that it would consider legal recourse if the issue comes up. “The project is in continuous ownership and possession of the Punjab Government. The issue is well settled, but if we are pushed, then legal recourse is definitely one of the courses that could be adopted,” a senior official cognisant of the matter, who did not wish to be quoted, told The Hindu.
The 110 MW Shanan power project was envisaged by Col. Battye, the then Chief Engineer of the Government of Punjab, in 1922. The first stage (48 MW) of the project was commissioned in 1932. The project was constructed following the execution of the lease agreement in 1925.
The Shanan project was allocated to the State of Punjab in accordance with the provisions of the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966. Under the Act, the Shanan project was allocated to Punjab State by the Ministry of Irrigation and Power, Government of India. In 1972, the Centre responded with a clarification to an objection raised by Himachal Pradesh, reaffirming the allotment of the project in favour of Punjab State, the official added.
Separately, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal on Wednesday said that an important meeting would be held with the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister on June 5. The meeting is slated to involve deliberations on several issues, including the construction of the Saraswati river rejuvenation and heritage development project, the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal water flowing via Himachal Pradesh, and imposition of cess on water drawn for hydropower generation.