Friday, July 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Talks on SYL canal inconclusive
Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 25
The contentious issue of the division of river waters between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan continued to elude a mutually acceptable solution, with the meeting convened by the Union Water Resources Ministry failing to cut any ice today as the respective state governments refused to budge from their previously stated positions.

“The meeting has failed to cut ice as the contending parties stuck to their stands”, Union Water Resources Minister Arjun Charan Sethi said after the meeting, but indicated that the Centre would shortly convene another meeting to resolve the issue.

Mr Sethi, however, maintained that Punjab had to implement the Supreme Court directive regarding the construction of the portion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) canal in Punjab.

The Punjab Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, said the Centre must first decide the share of river waters to be allocated between Punjab and Haryana before the SYL canal issue could be finally decided.

“We have agreed to disagree”, Capt Amarinder Singh said after the two-hour long meeting remained inconclusive.

Haryana Chief Parliamentary Secretary Ram Pal Majra, who represented the state government on behalf of Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, said Punjab had to implement the directions of the Supreme Court.

Mr Majra said it appeared that the Punjab Chief Minister would not get the canal completed within the stipulated period (January 15, 2003). He described the canal as the lifeline of the farmers of Haryana and said the canal had a stretch of 121 km in Punjab and 91 km in Haryana.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot demanded that Punjab should hand over the control of the Harike headworks to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) to regulate water supply to Rajasthan.

Mr Gehlot also made a strong plea for an additional allocation of 0.6 MAF Ravi Beas water to Rajasthan as per the agreement signed in 1992.

Capt Amarinder Singh, however, said the demand for the transfer of Ropar, Harike and Ferozepore headworks to the BBMB was without any justification as it had been with the state government for the past 36 years. On the release of additional water to Rajasthan, the Punjab Chief Minister said the issue was reopened under the Rajiv-Longowal Accord and till the inter-state water dispute was finally resolved, no additional water could be given to Rajasthan.

He maintained that while all assets were distributed amongst Punjab and Haryana in the ratio of 60:40 at the time of reorganisation of the two states in 1966, the same principle was not applied by the Centre while deciding the issue of sharing of river waters.

"Consequently, Haryana was given the entire share of erstwhile Punjab from the Yamuna", Capt Amarinder Singh said, adding that Punjab did not have surplus water to share with Haryana at this stage.

On the completion of the SYL canal, the Punjab Chief Minister said the farmers of Punjab had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the construction of the canal and the distribution of water between the two states and the matter would come up for hearing in September, 2002.

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