With Punjab already facing water crisis, having 79 per cent of its underground water area in dark zone, Punjab seems in no mood to share its water with Haryana through the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) and the Supreme Court has given the state an opportunity to get its point conveyed across the table to Haryana and Centre.
Even as Punjab government plans to await the judgement of Supreme Court Tuesday directing Punjab, Haryana and Centre to sort out the issue of water sharing before September 3, it is likely to take its case on the table with Haryana and the Centre.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had, after taking over the reins of the state in March 2017, asked the then Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to mediate a meeting between warring Punjab and Haryana over the issue so that he could explain the state’s position. But even two years later the meeting is yet to take place. The SC has now provided Punjab with that opportunity.
For the last several days, the fast depleting underground water table in the agrarian state was hogging headlines and the CM had initiated the process of constituting Punjab Water Authority for regulation of water usage.
According to the state’s own report on underground water situation, there is over-exploitation of ground water to meet its agriculture requirement. the reportsaid that about 79 per cent area of the state is over-exploited. Out of 138 blocks, 109 blocks are “over-exploited”, two blocks are “critical” five blocks are “semi-critical” and only 22 blocks are in “safe” category.
In the light of these facts, sources said, the state would put forward its case to Centre and Haryana. The CM called a meeting of Water Resources Department, its Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Adminsitrative Secertary Sarvjit Singh, Advocate General Atul Nanda and Principal Secretary to CM Tejveer Singh and took a quick briefing on the issue.
Sources said the CM would comment on the issue only after getting a copy of the judgment. But it is likely that the state would reiterate its earlier stand on the sharing of water.
“In no case, Punjab can part with its water. The central groundwater department’s report says several areas in Punjab could go dry by 2029. How can then the state give its precious resource to neighbouring state?” asked a functionary of the government on condition of anonymity.
The chief minister, who during his previous tenure disobeyed his then party president Sonia Gandhi and passed The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004, thereby abrogating the December 1981 inter-state agreement with Haryana and Rajasthan on the apportioning of waters available in the Ravi-Beas river system, is in no mood to go soft on the issue, said sources.
The argument that Punjab has been putting forward is that the “government respects the law but going by the niceties in law, how can it allow the state, that grows food for the entire nation, be allowed to turn into a desert?”
it has been lamenting that the over 30 years ago Eradi Tribunal “in a jiffy” determined the total amount of water available at 17.17 MAF and there was no “evidence” of this availability. “Things have only worsened over the three decades. Where is this much water available now?” asked the functionary while demanding a fresh Tribunal arguing that world over new Tribunals are constituted after 20 years but nothing has been done here. The government has been stating that in the 1980s, terrorism gripped the state when SYL was being constructed. “Do we want the same to be repeated?” the official added.