Tuesday, September 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Nationalise rivers, says Haryana
Punjab opposes RBO
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 24
The Punjab and Haryana governments today expectedly expressed diametrically opposite views on the allocation of water between various states in the country at the second meeting of the Working Group of National Water Resources Council here.

While the Punjab Government demanded strengthening of principles of riparian rights “which are accepted universally” and allow the states to develop and harness their water resources for the benefit of society, the Haryana Government urged the Centre that rivers should be nationalised and the allocation of water should be made as per the requirement of states concerned.

Participating at the meeting, Punjab Irrigation Minister Janmeja Singh Sekhon demanded dropping of the proposal to set up a river basin organisation (RBO) saying “Water is a state subject as enshrined in the Constitution and the establishment of an RBO would serve no useful purpose as it would further aggravate the conflict among states.”

“Instead of establishment of an RBO, it is our earnest desire that such policy should be formulated which should strengthen the principles of riparian rights which is accepted universally and allow the states to develop and harness their water resources for the benefit of society”, he said.

The minister also strongly opposed notification of an amendment to the Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, in Parliament with regard to information system and data collection for water resources planning and wanted the Central Government to drop it altogether.

Asserting that the attitude of the successive governments (at the Centre) in the matter of water disputes had left the people of Punjab sore, Mr Sekhon said “they (Punjab people) legitimately nursed a deep sense of betrayal at the way their legal and constitutional rights in the matter of resolution of water disputes had been denied to them.”

Protesting against the use of the term “national perspective” as the sole basis for water allocation amongst states, he pointed out that the term was vague and might give rise to more conflicts.

The Punjab minister wanted retaining of the original text, in the draft National Water Policy, which reads “The water allocation amongst the basin states should be guided by a national perspective with due regard to water resources availability within the river basin, the existing uses and the future needs of water for various uses in each basin state. Necessary guidelines may be formulated accordingly for allocation of water amongst the basin states.”

He regretted that the Core Group in its meeting held on June 19, 2001, had ignored the views of Punjab by recommending water sharing amongst the states based on needs instead of “the existing uses and future needs”. “Punjab is strongly of the view that existing uses, in no case, be disturbed,” he said.

The addition recommended by the Core Group (in para 21.1 of the draft National Water Policy) that “necessary guidelines, including the water short states even outside the basin, need to be evolved for facilitating future agreement amongst the basin states”, is unnecessary and not acceptable because river basin transfer of water can be considered only if surplus water is available over and above the requirement of basin states, he said, adding that “Punjab is in favour that the original text of 1998 be retained.”

The Haryana Finance Minister, Mr Sampat Singh, who was representing the state Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, appreciated the efforts made by the Union Water Resources Minister in achieving near consensus in draft National Water Policy of 1998 and demanded inclusion of a provision for time-bound implementation of the awards of the tribunal.

On the RBO issue, Mr Sampat Singh said such an organisation should be statutory so that it might no longer remain only on paper. He, therefore, urged that the concept of RBO should be defined in more detail.

The Haryana minister emphasised the need for early notification of the draft amendment in Inter-State Water Disputes Act, 1956, prescribing a time schedule for resolving any water dispute by the tribunals, which had already been approved by the Lok Sabha.Back

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