JAMMU, Dec 11: Work on construction of the Tawi artificial lake here, which is aimed at giving a boost to tourism in Jammu province, has finally taken off after encountering scores of delays in the past 13 years.

The artificial lake and river front beautification work in the Tawi river will be completed at a cost of Rs 280 crore by April next year.

“If all goes as planned, the gated Tawi barrage project (artificial lake) would be completed by April 2023 along with ongoing work on other components of artificial lake, including river bank protection, development of Tawi river front on the pattern of Sabarmati”, Jammu Mayor Rajendra Sharma said.

“We should be happy that at least work has now started again (after many delays). It is a difficult task. But we hope it will be completed by the deadline”, he said. The Mayor said the lake will totally change the tourism landscape of Jammu.

“The lake at the entry point will have great attractions. It will beautify Jammu, which is known as the city of temples”, Sharma said.

Indiresh Prajapati, who is an expert on lake projects, said work is going on full swing.
“The bed work, channelisation of water, embankment constructions and diversions are being done. It is a difficult task,” he said.

The project, which was launched in 2009 by the Congress-NC government, has been marred by delays, missing as many as seven deadlines, before work came to a standstill in 2018.
The state government has spent more than Rs 58 crore on the project in the past decade, after its foundation stone was laid by the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on December 5, 2009.

After missing the first target date in 2022, the contractor missed deadlines in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 when the work stopped.

In 1986, then Governor Jagmohan gave his approval to the lake project. The state government began the construction project in 2008-09 after much delay.
As per the project plan, an auto-mechanical barrage would be constructed on river Tawi, one km downstream of main Tawi bridge, the officials said.

“This will help create an artificial lake at Belicharana.The 1,500-metre-long and 600-metre-wide artificial lake, a first-of-its-kind here, will give a new dimension to tourism in Jammu city”, the Mayor said.

He said the proposed gated barrage on Tawi is one of the three sub-projects of the lake project that was conceptualised to give a boost to regional tourism in Jammu by creating recreational activities like boating and water sports, besides enhancing the overall aesthetic look of the city.

The other two sub-projects, viz Tawi river development project and beautification and creation of tourist facilities are to be executed by the housing and urban development department and tourism department, respectively, they said.

The project, which was originally sanctioned at a cost of ₹70 crore by dovetailing funds from various sources, was stalled on account of the contractor’s “inactivity” for seven years leading to cancellation of awarded tender and related cost escalation, they said.

The administrative council has sanctioned the revised project at an estimated cost of Rs 131.53 crore which includes additional grant of ₹73.34 crore and already incurred expenditure of ₹58.19 crore, while construction of the Sabarmati-type river front will cost the government 150 crore, they said.

“The work for Tawi river front has been started at a cost of Rs 150 crore and will be completed in 18 months period. The work is going on pace at the left bank, right bank and island of river Tawi”, CEO, Smart City Jammu Ltd, Rahul Yadav said.
About the delay, he said earlier there was no tender in place. “Now the tender is in place. There is funding meant for the project and work is going at a fast pace. Work will be completed as per the deadline. It is a prestigious project for Jammu and its tourism aspect”, he said.

On completion, the project will promote water recreation and sporting facilities besides boosting commercial activities around the artificial lake which will create employment opportunities for locals and attract tourists to Jammu city.

Local Vikas Raina said he is looking forward to the city having an artificial lake.
“I was 20 when this project started in 2013. But it has crossed six-seven deadlines. With the new beginning on the project, we hope the project will be completed by April next year”, Raina said.