July 9, 2015 | By Parmjeet Singh
Chandigarh: Punjab’s river water issue is the story of the looting of Punjab’s natural resources by the Central Government on the one hand, and on the other hand it is a tragic drama of betrayal of Punjab by it’s own political leaders.
Currently Punjab is using 152 LAF of river water, whereas 147.5 LAF river water of Punjab is allocated to the non-riparian states of Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi1.
Overburdened ground waters of Punjab:
As a large share of Punjab’s river water continues to flow out to non-riparian states, the agriculturally dominated state is heading towards exhausting it’s ground water. Government surveys reveal the alarming situation of the declining ground water table in Punjab: 110 out of 138 blocks of the state are classified as “over exploited”2.
Experts believe that Punjab is heading towards eco-disaster due to ‘over-exploitation’ of ground water.
Loot of Punjab Waters – the (so-called) Agreements:
The Central Governments of India made ‘extra-legal and extra-constitutional arrangements’ (as these arrangements were made in violation of relevant provisions of the Indian Constitution) to allocate Punjab’s river waters to the afore-mentioned non-riparian states. These arrangements include the so-called agreements of 1955, 1976 (notification), 1981 (Indira Award) and 1986 (Eradi Tribunal)3.
Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, Section 5 of PTAA and Punjab’s riparian rights:
The Punjab Termination of Agreements Act (PTAA) 2004 could be termed as a “murder” of Punjab’s riparian rights by none else than the Punjab’s own state assembly and elected representatives.
On 12 July, 2004 the Punjab Assembly passed PTAA in attempt to neutralise the Indian Supreme Court’s directions to complete the construction of controversial Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal before 14 July, 2004. The law was moved by a Congress Government led by Captain Amarinder Singh and it was supported by the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), thus this, the PTAA was passed unanimously by the state assembly.
Though the enactment of the PTAA has paused the issue of construction of the SYL for the time being, this law has done a larger damage. Before the enactment of the PTAA the river waters of Punjab were being robbed through illegal arrangements but since the adoption of Section 5 of the PTAA, illegal allocation of Punjab’s river water to non-riparian states has received the stamp of the Punjab Assembly.
It may appear strange, but it’s true, that in order to prevent construction of the SYL (that is supposed to carry out 34 LAF river water), the Punjab Assembly accepted and legalised the distribution of a major share of Punjab’s river water (around 147.5 LAF) to the non-riparian states of Rajasthan (86 LAF), Haryana (59.5 LAF) and Delhi (2 LAF).
It should also be noted here that according to Punjab’s ex-chief engineer G. S. Dhillon, Haryana is already getting 18 LAF (out of 34 LAF) by additional discharge from the Bhakhra Bias Management Board (BBMB) through the Bhakhra Canal. Mr. Dhillon maintains that the Hansi Butana Link canal project of Haryana aims at taking away the remaining 16 LAF (SYL) water (though extra discharge in Bhakhra Main Line to which Hansi Buntana will link at Samana area of Punjab) even without actual construction of the SYL canal.
What Badal and Amarinder say today:
In a recent statement Capt. Amarinder Singh said that Punjab had no spare water to share with Haryana. ‘Punjab didn’t have a single drop of extra water to spare for other states, including Haryana’, Amarinder said during a rally at Attari on Wednesday.
“Come what may, we are not going to let anybody take a single drop of water from our state”, media reports quote him.
A similar statement was recently made by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in reaction to Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar’s statement on the SYL project.
Stand of Badal and Amrinder on Section 5 of the PTAA:
Whereas Capt. Amarinder Singh credits himself for “saving” Punjab’s river waters he did not see, or at least never admitted, that the enactment of section 5 of the PTAA has done a major damage to the interests of the state.
So far as the stand of CM Badal on this issue is concerned, his party announced to undo the damage by annulling section 5 of the PTAA. SAD (B) made a promise to the people of Punjab in this regard in its election manifesto during the 2007 Assembly elections, but since then the Badal Government has not taken the initiative in this regard during the last 8 years.
Badal, Amarinder need to explain their stand on given away waters:
Now, when Captain Amarinder Singh and CM Parkash Singh Badal say that Punjab has no spare drop of water to share with other states, they should clarify their stand about what has already been given away, a much larger share of Punjab’s river water. They need to explain why they should escape responsibility for giving away 147.5 LAF water to non-riparian states simply in an attempt to prove that Punjab had no excess water to discharge in the SYL.
Badal and Amarinder should also explain why they should not be held responsible for murdering the riparian rights of the state and betraying the people of Punjab on the river water issue.
1. For more details, see: Jal Bin Sakh Kumlavati, https://books.google.co.in/books?id=wa7AoHsj0dcC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
2. ENVIS Centre : Punjab; check url: http://punenvis.nic.in/index3.aspx?sslid=5642&subsublinkid=4286&langid=1&mid=1.
3. For more details, see: Jal Bin Sakh Kumlavati, pp. 20-32.