Experts from Punjab have termed the assurance given by Union water resources minister Uma Bharti to Haryana for preparing a roadmap to find a solution to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue with Punjab as “ridiculous” and “next to impossible”, as the matter is pending in the Supreme Court.
“It seems awkward to intercept the court proceedings midway,” said SK Goel, Punjab’s adviser on irrigation and canals matters, adding that the other solution suggested for making Punjab and Haryana decide the matter amicably seemed “next to impossible”. Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal has already rejected the idea of interlinking of rivers in the state as “not feasible”.
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha in 2004, when Capt Amarinder Singh was the CM, had passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, annulling the agreement of 1981 and all other subsequent agreements with other states, putting a lid to any scope for building the SYL for which the Supreme Court had issued directions in 2002.
The Punjab Act was sent to the President for assent and two months later it was sent to the Supreme Court for a presidential reference. A constitution bench of five judges is to hear the matter, which is awaited for the past 11 years. Haryana and Rajasthan have raised their objections to the Punjab’s Act in the Supreme Court, but the apex court so far has not listed the case for hearing.
“Punjab and Haryana have repeatedly sat across the table but the solution favouring one particular state, Haryana, can’t be reached. Punjab never agreed to the construction of the SYL,” Goel said, adding Punjab was already giving Haryana’s share of water. “The other way out is that the Supreme Court rejects the Punjab Act and orders the construction of the canal,” Goel further said.
According to PS Kumedan, an expert on the inter-state issues, Punjab is one of the rare cases in the world where a riparian state is supplying water to non-riparian states. According to him, as per the proposal of the earlier NDA government headed by Vajpayee, 14 linkages of rivers are to be done in north India and 17 in the south.
“All the linkages are about sharing of river waters between riparian states and there is no mention of Punjab in the proposal. Punjab is one state which has already linked its rivers – Ravi and Beas at Harike barrage and the Sutlej and Beas at Dehar power plant,” he said.
Speaking on Bharti’s suggestion of making the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana meet on the SYL issue, Goel ruled out the possibility that the inter-state dialogue would get any positive result. “Harping on its riparian claim, Punjab has already made it clear that it would not give any water to the outside states more than what they are already getting,” Goel said.
What more Haryana and Rajasthan demand
Haryana is getting 1.62 million acre feet (MAF) water from the Bhakra main line (BML) canal and is demanding 1.88 MAF more to make it 3.5 MAF. Rajasthan is getting 6.2 MAF and is demanding 1.8 MAF more. Both states are referring to the 1981 agreement which Punjab has annulled and hope to cover up the shortfall through the SYL canal.