Hours before its grand launch by Nitish Kumar, a portion of a 389-crore dam in Bihar crashed during a trial run and left parts of a town in Bhagalpur flooded. The Chief Minister was forced to cancel the inauguration today of the Ganga canal project that was completed after a 40-year delay.
Last evening, Mr Kumar’s office cited “technical reasons” for dropping the launch of the Bateshwarsthan Ganga Pump Canal Project, which has been set up to irrigate land in Bihar and neighbouring Jharkhand. Ads in newspapers had announced that Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan would also be present at the event.
The wall of the canal collapsed when water from the river Ganga crashed into it after the pump was switched on for a trial. The water gushed into Kahalgaon village and inundated areas that are part of a thermal power project.
The Principal Secretary of the Water Resources department, Arun Kumar Singh, and top Bhagalpur officials are overseeing efforts to drain out water from the submerged areas around 3 km from the canal.
“Sandbags are being placed to check the flow of water,” Mr Singh told reporters. Experts blame the collapse on the negligence of officials.
A joint scheme by Bihar and Jharkhand, the project aims to irrigate 18,620 hectares of land in Bhagalpur and over 4,000 hectares in Jharkhand, a government brochure on the project said.
The Planning Commission had originally approved the project in 1977 at an estimated cost of nearly Rs. 14 crore.
In a series of tweets, Mr Kumar’s former deputy and Lalu Yadav’s son Tejashwi Yadav snarked: “One more dam has been sacrificed to corruption…The Water Resources department is a den of corruption…wonder why the Chief Minister is silent on that?” Mr Yadav didn’t take names but appeared to be hinting at Mr Lallan, the Water Resources Minister.