Saturday, July 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centralisation of water opposed
Haryana rakes up SYL issue
From T.V.Lakshminarayan
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 7 — Punjab today strongly opposed the proposed centralisation of development and management of water resources saying the states alone should be empowered to deal with the subject.

The stand was taken by the Punjab Chief Minister at the 4th meeting of National Water Resources Council here. The forum also saw Haryana raking up the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal issue. Himachal Pradesh pleaded for exclusive right of the mother state in non-consumptive use of water.

The simmering differences between the Punjab and Haryana were vented soon after the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, appealed for a national consensus to enable optimum use of water resources.

“One of the negative fallouts of the model of development of water resources has been the emergence of regional imbalances resulting from the absence of a holistic view. These imbalances can be corrected if there is an overall framework for the development and management of water”, the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee said the collective initiative of the country to overcome the challenge of optimum development of water resources would depend on putting into place a comprehensive water resources information system that takes into account availability and demand; an institutional mechanism for the integrated development and management of resources in each river basin; and agreements on sharing of waters of inter-State rivers by co-basin states.

These and other issues broadly formed the agenda of the meeting and were encapsulated in the revised draft National Water Policy, the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee acknowledged that while there was consensus among most states on the draft policy and draft guidelines for water allocation among co-basin states, there were apprehensions on three major issues. These were on putting into place a comprehensive information system; setting up of river basin organisations; and allocating water among co-basin states.

The Prime Minister, while hoping that apprehensions about these issues would be dispelled and differences ironed out through discussions suggested that the council focus its attention on the more important item of the draft National Water Policy today. The draft guidelines, he said, could be entrusted to a working group headed by Union Minister of Water Resources for harmonising views of all the state governments and bringing a consensual draft for the consideration of the council at its next meeting.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, in his speech avoided raising any controversial issue, including differences with Haryana, and restricted his comments to the various provisions in the draft National Water Policy, 1998.

While supporting the need for a well-developed information system and data collection for water resources planning, Mr Badal said his government were of the view that sufficient machinery exists both at the Central and state level to collect and process such datas. “Therefore, the existing machinery is required to be strengthened wherever so required. Legislation for his purpose is not required”, he added.

On the proposal to establish an appropriate river basin organisation with statutory powers for planning, development and management for the basins as a whole or sub-basin, Mr Badal said the creation of RBOs with statutory powers would be a direct infringement of the powers to the State to deal with the subject. The RBO move was also opposed by other basin states including MP & Maharashtra.

“The freedom of the states to plan, formulate, execute water supply schemes as per its needs will be severely curtailed” the Chief Minister said adding such a proposal would also adversely affect the state’s stand with regard to existing use of water before tribunals as well as in courts of law including the Supreme Court, where the suit filed by Haryana was pending for adjudication.

The Punjab Chief Minister also disagreed with a proposal to centralise the power for planning and usage of water saying it would be a violation of riparian rights and would directly affect the growth of the State.

Mr Badal said the modified proposal of the Union Government to allocate water to the basin states with due regard to demand was not acceptable to Punjab.

On the provision for financial and physical sustainability in the draft policy, Mr Badal said the issue of levying any charges for the use of water should be left to the states. He pointed out that water was an essential input for the growth of agriculture and farming all over the world was being subsidized.

The Chief Minister supported the idea of greater involvement of farmers in the management of irrigation water and private sector participation.

The Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Om Parkash Chautala, whose speech was read in absentia by the state Finance Minister, in the very beginning sought the intervention of the Centre for speedy completion of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal in Punjab.

In direct contrast to Mr Badal, the Haryana Chief Minister stressed on the need for nationalisation of rivers and setting up of river basin organisations by giving them statutory powers besides priority to water deficit states in the allocation of water.

Describing SYL as the life line of Haryana, he said the state urgently needed its share of Ravi-Beas waters as underground water in the state was saline in two-third of the areas.

He said Haryana had formally accepted stipulations made in the draft National Water policy. He said the proposed river basin organisation should be given statutory powers as these would help in implementation of their decisions.

He said water disputes amongst partner states should be settled in a time bound manner the theory of riparian right put forth by some states should be rejected and water resources distributed on the basis of equity.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Prof Prem Kumar Dhumal, said the state should be allowed to harness water resources for power generation without any interference and hindrance of co-basin states. He opposed the sharing of power benefits with other “disbenefited” co-basin states in case of exclusive right of harnessing hydro power potential by the mother state as proposed in the draft policy.

He demanded water from completed projects like Bhakra, Pong Dam and Beas-Sutlej link for drinking and irrigation purposes and requested for a suitable provision in the national water policy to this effect.

Supporting the provision for setting up of a river basin organisation and the protection of riparian rights, Prof Dhumal said that states supplying water to other states should be financially compensated.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |