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Kangan Villages, Kashmir: recurring canal breaches threaten lives and livelihoods

In Hardo Panzin, J&K, unfenced canal of the Upper Sindh Hydropower Project Stage II causes recurrent breaches, jeopardizing residents' safety & agriculture. Appeals for protective measures remain unanswered, leaving families vulnerable to annual threats

By Ground report
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Kangan Villages, Kashmir: recurring canal breaches threaten lives and livelihoods
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The residents of Hardo Panzin in Kangan– in the Ganderbal district of J&K– live in constant trepidation due to the imminent threat of a nearby canal breaching its banks. The leakage from the unfenced power canal of the Upper Sindh Hydropower Project Stage II has been a recurring issue. Reportedly, the leakage has resulted in breaches in 2009, 2014, 2021, and 2023.

Despite the pleas of residents and the efforts of authorities, the problem persists, leaving families at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods. Panzin resident Showkat Ahmad expressed frustration, stating, "The canal still leaks, and the water comes every year."

The former Sarpanch of Panzin, Manzoor Ahmad, echoed similar sentiments. Meanwhile, the current Sarpanch, Shabir Ahmad said, "Last year in May, the leakage started, and the flow has increased now”. Numberdar Mohammad Lateef expressed disappointment with the authorities' inaction.

"I raised concerns with the department, and they said to discuss it with the AEE (Assistant Executive Engineer), he assured protective wall for the village but they didn't take it seriously. They didn't start the project.” Lateef explained, "The water pressure is immense, like stacking 10 houses, one on top of another.”

Breaches, and cement work

These canals feed the Upper Sindh Hydro Power House (USHP) stage-II in Kangan, near the Ganderbal district in J&K. The canal system originates from two parts: one in Sambal and the other in the Wangath side. The power canal was constructed in 1995 and operating since 2000. However, the leakages started in 2009. Since then, continuous leakages and stone cracks have occurred, residents claimed. The lack of proper fencing and safety barriers has made the residents suspectable of the consequences of the breaching. 

Residents have repeatedly urged installing fencing along the canal banks to prevent incidents, but their pleas have been ignored. "No one has ever thought about fencing these canal banks to avoid such incidents. Early repair of the damage or broken canal banks and their fencing is necessary," said a group of locals.

The authorities tried to solve the problem with cement work. As a local said, "They did some work… they put some cement on cracks, but the leakage continued.” 

Impact on agriculture and livelihoods

Canal breaches and leakages have significantly impacted the agriculture in the area, a vital livelihood source for the residents. During the rainy season, increased water flow and leakages have damaged crops, causing substantial losses for farmers. A farmer explained, 

Paddy cultivation has always been there, but the water from the USHP canal especially from the other side of Wangath, has made things precarious. When it rains, the leakages worsen, severely impacting our crops and farmlands”.

Resident Shabir Ahmad said,

"The unfenced canals have caused animal deaths and threats to other areas."

The unfenced canals pose a severe risk to human life and property, especially during the rainy season. Shabir said, “This has also become a suicide spot, and agricultural land has been impacted. This is also the water source for the whole district, and last year, a wild boar was found dead in it. 

Timeline of Past Incidents

  1. May 7, 2023: A canal breach wreaked havoc in the Panzin area of Kangan, forcing families to evacuate. Several houses were damaged, and hundreds of kanals of cultivated land were submerged, causing significant losses for the farming community.

  1. 31 Jul 2021: Heavy rains led to a breach in the power canal at Baba Wayil Padshahibagh, resulting in water entering farmlands and residential areas.

  2. 19 Mar 2014: A breach in the power canal flooded areas in Kangan, causing panic and damage to residential houses due to a landslide.

  3. 11 Sept 2009: Canal breach in the Upper Sindh Hydel Power Project Phase-II in Ganderbal district damaged at least six houses and affected crops over five hectares in Panzin-Kijpora village.

Way forward

The canals feeding the Upper Sindh Hydro Power House (USHP) stage-I (Sumbal) and stage-II (Kangan) lack fencing or protection walls, increasing the risk as they pass through Kullan to Kangan. As the authorities assured locals that construction of the protective wall for the village would be a permanent solution, Panzin residents hope for proper fencing and safety measures to protect their homes, lives, and livelihoods from canal breaches. Failure to act swiftly could result in further loss of life, property, and livelihoods, worsening the crisis faced by the residents.

We have reached out to Sub-Divisional Magistrate SDM Kangan and the District administration. We will update this story when we receive a response.

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