The Punjab Government will remain steadfast in its stand on the construction of the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — the state has no water to spare for sharing with Haryana, and it does not have any land for constructing the canal after the land acquired for the purpose was returned to the original landowners in 2016.
The meeting convened by Union Minister for Jal Shakti Gajendra Shekhawat on Thursday evening, to find a ‘way in resolving the long standing issue’, is the third between the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana, convened by the Centre. The latter had already mediated twice between the CMs of the two states, once on January 4 and another on August 18, 2020, but talks had remained inconclusive. These meetings have been convened on the directions of the SC, which is hearing the water dispute case. The next date of hearing in the case is in January 2024.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has been reportedly holding preparatory meetings with officers of the Water Resources Department for the past two days. Thursday’s meeting will see the Chief Minister proposing alternative solutions — hearing on the case be adjourned and kept pending till the hearing on the Ravi-Beas tribunal is decided; constitution of a new tribunal to re-evaluate the availability of Ravi-Beas waters with new terms and references, keeping in mind the severe depletion of groundwater and river water in Punjab; and including Punjab as beneficiary in the Sharda Yamuna Link canal project.
Sources in the government say that the CM will demand a review of the Yamuna Water Sharing Agreement of 1994 between Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana, and seek Punjab’s inclusion for share of water.
Punjab will also highlight how in 1981, when the SYL canal was first envisaged, Haryana and Rajasthan got a much higher share of the Ravi and Beas waters, though they did not have any riparian rights on these rivers. He will also point out that though the state was initially allocated 17.17 MAF of water, but it was later reduced to 13.25 MAF. Moreover, the severely depleting groundwater table in the state will make it impossible for Punjab to give away any more of its river waters.
Controversy dates back to 1960s
- 1966: Re-organisation of Punjab led to the carving out of Haryana. Punjab refused to share its water with it
- 1980:- Water sharing agreement signed between Punjab and Haryana. It was decided to construct the SYL canal
- 1990: Construction of canal stopped after Chief Engineer associated with the project was shot dead by militants
- 1999: Haryana filed a suit in SC seeking construction of canal
- 2002: The SC directed Punjab to complete construction of the canal. Punjab filed a review petition
- 2004: Punjab passes Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, abrogating all its river water agreements
- March 2016: Punjab SYL Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill passed to return land to the original landowners
- 2022: The SC asks Centre to mediate between Punjab and Haryana Chief Ministers