Sunday, January 5, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab has no surplus water
Capt Amarinder Singh writes to Vajpayee

New Delhi, January 4
The Sutlej-Yamuna-Link (SYL) canal has again become an emotive issue in both contending states of Punjab and Haryana with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh seeking the Prime Minister’s intervention for reviewing allocation of the river waters between the two states as the Supreme Court’s deadline for its completion draws near.

Supporting his contention that his state has no surplus water for the canal, the Punjab Chief Minister in his letter to Mr Vajpayee said the completion of the unfinished construction of the SYL was linked with the transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab along with readjustment of the boundaries of Punjab and Haryana on the basis of linguistic affinity and contiguity on January 26, 1986, under the Rajiv-Longowal accord of 1985.

When all important clauses of the accord have been ignored for the past 17 years, why was the issue of the SYL being taken up in isolation without reviewing afresh the quantum of waters available in Punjab’s rivers, Capt Amarinder Singh said.

Besides, after the 1981 Agreement (based on the Central Government’s notification of 1976 and of 1955) on the basis of which Haryana claims a share of waters from Ravi-Beas and Sutlej rivers, the Yamuna waters were redistributed in 1994 with a major share given to Haryana while ignoring the claim of Punjab altogether.

Capt Amarinder Singh requested the Prime Minister to convene the meetings of the Chief Ministers concerned within a week to thrash out the river waters distribution issue as the apex court’s deadline expires on January 15. The Supreme Court has directed Punjab to complete the construction of the SYL in Punjab territory within a year ending January 15, 2003, failing which the Centre should appoint an agency to execute the construction work expediously.

As Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala has already convened an all-party meeting in the state to strengthen his position on the issue, the Punjab Chief Minister too has called such a meeting on January 8 to enlist support of his main opponents — the Akalis — to oppose the SYL as such.

Contending the need for a re-look into the availability of river waters, the Punjab Chief Minister said for allocating more waters to Haryana in 1981, the quantum of water availability was ‘’inflated’’ to 17.17 MAF against the earlier assessment of 15.85 MAF in 1976. The same assessment was made in 1955 when almost half of it was allocated to Rajasthan.

Since 1981, the water availability has drastically reduced to 14.37 MAF, that is 1.48 MAF less than the basis of the original allocation in 1976 was worked out and even 2.80 MAF less than the allocation of 1981, Capt Amarinder Singh said in his letter to the Prime Minister.

Besides, he pointed out, the Ravi-Beas basin had become a deficit basin. Haryana had got an allocation of 4.65 MAF of water from the Yamuna river. ‘’The Yamuna basin is now considered a surplus basin and inter-basin transfer of water is permissible only from a surplus basin to a deficit basin and not the reverse,” the letter said.

Moreover, the Chief Minister said with the creation of the linking of rivers by the Central Government in pursuance of the Supreme Court orders of October 31, 2002 and undertaking of a project for transfer of waters from the Sharda river to Yamuna river basin, the latter has become a surplus one.

Under the proposal, Haryana had got another allocation of 1.62 MAF of water from the Yamuna basin, he added.

If Haryana was given 3.5 MAF water for its SYL network, the three districts of Punjab comprising 900,000 hectares of irrigated land would be rendered dry, Capt Amarinder Singh said and added that with the excessive extraction of ground water for irrigation, a major portion of subsoil water in these areas has further gone down, requiring immediate recharging.

The allocation of water, the letter said, whether by adjudication or agreement was subject to periodic review. In this regard, both the Krishna and Narmada tribunals, each presided over by judges of the apex court, have held that allocations should be reviewed every 25 to 30 years.

“The Yamuna agreement of May 12, 1994 also recognises this principle. This aspect has also been taken note of in the draft National Water Policy guidelines formulated by the National Water Resources Council headed by you.”

In view of the altered circumstances, the allocations should be reviewed and water re-allocated after protecting the present users and the huge expenditure of Rs 800 crore required for completion of the SYL canal could be avoided, the letter added. UNI

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