The Central Water Commission (CWC) on Thursday said Punjab’s fear that linking of rivers in the state would eat into its share was ill-founded as there was no plan of linking of rivers in the Indus basin with other rivers in the country.
Rivers flowing from Punjab – Sutlej, Ravi and Beas — are part of the Indus basin. “Punjab’s apprehensions have no basis as there is no proposal to transfer water from the Indus basin,” CWC chairman AB Pandya told Hindustan Times. He was in Chandigarh on Thursday to take part in a two-day workshop on “Waterlogging and soil salinity in irrigated agriculture”.
There have been rumours of linking rivers in Punjab and taking water out of the state. “These are all political comments,” said Pandya.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had proposed interlinking of rivers and river basins to pool nation’s water resources and the present BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is following it up.
Pandya added that the Centre had started work on interlinking of rivers and work was on to link Ken and Betwa rivers in Bundelkhand (the region divided between Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh). “In my opinion, linking of rivers and river basins will be beneficial for the nation as water resources will be pooled and equitably distributed,” he said.
Neighbouring states apprehensive
The CWC chairman made it clear that water disputes arising in north India, especially with Punjab and neighbouring states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, are largely because of Punjab’s Termination of (Water) Agreements Act.
“The states neighbouring Punjab are apprehensive to deal with it as the presidential reference on the act is still awaited. Things will be clear after the case is dealt at the top-most level,” he said.
The water commission chairman also said that the worry of lower riparian states while dealing with the upper riparian states was not unjustified. The act was enacted by Punjab in July 2004 when Captain Amarinder Singh was the chief minister.
The Hansi-Butana canal being built by Haryana and the Shahpur Kandi dam by Punjab on the Jammu and Kashmir-Punjab border have run in rough weather due to discord between the neighbouring states.
Pandya said the water commission was conducting studies to know how much water was available in the country for better management.
‘Rice eating into water resources'
Pandya said the lopsided cropping pattern, especially rice, is eating into Punjab’s water resources, especially the subsoil water which is being poorly managed. “Who told Punjab to grow rice?” he questioned, suggesting that the farmers need to come up with a better economic model of agriculture in the state.