Punjab and Haryana were locked into arguments over the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue and sharing of river waters in the 28th Northern Zonal Council meeting held here on Friday even as Punjab claimed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had asked two states to develop a consensus to resolve the contentious issue through “dialogue”. Rajnath, as per a press release by Punjab government, however, said if dialogues failed to yield results, the matter should be left to the courts to decide.
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, it was learnt, mooted the idea to settle the issues relating to river sharing “out-of-court”. Haryana was represented in the meeting by Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. After Haryana claimed to have an “edge” in the legal battle involving SYL canal, Manpreet Badal was learnt to have said, “Punjabis do not mind sacrificing their life if you ask with love, but do not show us the rulebook.”
When contacted later, Badal said, “After reorganisation, everything was divided in the ratio of 60 and 40 between Punjab and Haryana. Either same rule should follow in sharing of waters and Haryana should also give 60 percent of water from Yamuna, which they are reluctant to, or internationally accepted riparian principles should be adhered to. Already, 75 per cent of the water belonging to Punjab is flowing out to other states.”
SYL issue was one of the agenda items among the river water sharing issues taken up during the meeting attended by representatives of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Rajasthan. While Punjab is against the SYL canal saying it was already water-deficient, Haryana wants the canal to become operational so that it could get share of Ravi-Beas river waters for Haryana. “Punjab and Haryana on Friday agreed to try and find a collective solution to the dispute through dialogue,” said a statement issued by the Punjab government which hosted the meeting.
Addressing a joint press conference with Inter-State Council Secretary in Union home ministry, Sanjeevani Kutty, Punjab chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh said that during the meeting, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh sought to get the availability of waters in the Ravi and Beas rivers assessed afresh while pointing out that there was changes in the climate, in the Monsoon pattern and subsequently in the flow of the rivers. Chief Secretary said the Haryana CM was receptive to the suggestion.
Kutty said a number of issues were resolved during the meeting while some issues relating to river water sharing, power-sharing between states and water contamination in rivers needed more discussions. She said Union Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Power would hold meetings with states concerned on such issues. Later, a Haryana government statement quoted the CM as saying in the meeting, “The state government is willing to work towards an amicable settlement of every issue but we must always honour agreements arrived at in the past. Since our faith in the Constitution of India is full and unflinching, we would never hesitate in taking legal recourse in our determination to safeguard our interests and to protect the rights of the residents of the State”.
“Haryana is a water stressed state as against the demand of 36.0 MAF water, the availability of water is only 14.7 MAF. We have to give, out of our own share in the Yamuna waters, extra water to Delhi in compliance of the apex court’s orders, even as Punjab is not delivering Haryana’s full share of the Ravi-Beas water”, he said.
Khattar also urged the Union Government to expedite the construction of Renuka, Kishau and Lakhwar-Vyasi dams on river Yamuna. “The supplies in river Yamuna have been dwindling over the recent years and there being no dam on it, precious water goes waste during the monsoon season,” he said.
Another issue which was debated was setting up 27 mini hydel power projects by Punjab on Bhakra main line (BML) with generation capacity of 63.75 megawatts. Punjab had approached Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for funding the hydel power projects on BML by “non-consumptive use” of water within its territory. The ministry asked Punjab to get no-objection certificate from Bhakra Beas Management Board, which refused the same in 2015 saying work could not be done without concurrence of partner states as 1950 agreement. Haryana contended that cost of hydel project should be shared in the ratio of sharing costs of assets of Bhakra Nangal Project and electricity should be distributed accordingly. Rajasthan said cost of construction and power generated should be shared by Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana like other Bhakra Nangal Power House projects. Himachal said it should get 7.19 per cent power in all BBMB projects as per population ratio and the state should get an additional 12 per cent free power plus 1 per cent share as per National Hydro Power Policy besides its usual share. Punjab, however, contended that mini hydel power plant passed through Punjab and maintained by the state and there was no question of power sharing unless the projects were joint ventures.
“The power to be generated is miniscule. What share out of that Punjab can give to other states,” Badal said.
In absence of a consensus on the issue between the states, there is generation loss of 63.5 MW of power costing Rs 50 paise per unit only. In the meeting, Punjab also demanded land from Airport Authority of India for setting up perishable cargo centre at International Airport, Chandigarh. But it was told the facility was not feasible due to less number of international flights. Similar facility set up at Amritsar is unutilised due to discontinuation of international flights from Amritsar International Airport.
Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, Lt Governor of Delhi Anil Baijal, Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Anil Madhav Dave, Health and Family Welfare Minister of Himachal Pradesh Thakur Kaul Singh and Rajasthan Water Resources minister Dr Ram Pratap attended the meeting.