The Supreme Court expressed its annoyance on Wednesday over a political fight between the Centre and Himachal Pradesh stalling a Rs 5,400-crore dam that was to provide a fourth of Delhi’s daily water supply, as it stayed possession of land for the crucial project.
The venture should be scrapped if the stalemate does not end, said a bench of justice TS Thakur and justice Kurien Joseph, angry over the “apathy” and “indifference” of the two governments towards the inter-state project.
“The whole world knows that Delhi is not getting water. You (Centre and state) cannot fight with each other and kill a national project,” the court said. “Please keep your political considerations aside when it comes to such projects.”
Conceived to fulfill Delhi’s twin needs of water and energy, the Renuka dam project in Himachal Pradesh has got caught in a bureaucratic fight between the BJP-led Centre and the Congress-ruled state over funding.
The central government accused the state of not obtaining necessary sanctions from concerned ministries, a mandatory requirement for release of funds. The court gave the Centre four weeks to take a decision on how it would meet its liability.
“Even Faridabad, Noida and Gurgaon would have benefitted from the successful completion of this project,” the judges said. “We would have appreciated if energies were focused towards completing the project instead of adopting a confrontationist approach.”
The court was hearing the Himachal Pradesh government’s petition claiming it was unable to pay compensation to landowners whose property had been acquired for the project. The state blamed the Delhi government and the Centre for not sharing the project cost as promised under a memorandum of understanding.
Himachal, which is the executing state for the project, faces contempt before its high court. According to it, the State has already spent Rs 269 crore of which Rs 239.84 crore has been paid by the Delhi government. The Centre, which has to fund 90% of the project, estimated to cost Rs 3,500 crore in 2009, has not paid a single penny.
Upset on learning that the landowners didn’t get money and even lost their property, the bench restrained the Himachal government from taking possession of such land until the Centre arranged for funds.
“The project cannot be allowed to be killed by any kind of apathy or indifference or the land-owners can be made to suffer,” said the court.
Urging the two governments to take a quick decision to end the impasse, the bench noted any further delay could escalate the project cost, which is now estimated to be around Rs 5,400 crore. It even cautioned the governments that the court might issue fresh directions under the new land acquisition law.
In December 2008, an environment ministry panel had agreed in principle to construction of the dam. As per the arrangement, Delhi committed to bear 10% of the total cost, while 90% of the liability was to be taken up by the Centre.
Water from the 148-metre high and 430-metre wide dam was to be discharged into the Yamuna river through its tributary, Giri, and then released at the Hathni Kund barrage from where it would pass into the Munak channel and finally reach the Capital.
Construction of the dam was initially stalled after Haryana and Rajasthan refused to sign the agreement in 1994. According to the pact inked in November 1994, Delhi would get all the water from the Renuka dam till the Kishau dam and Lakhawar-Vyasi dam projects became operational.