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Punjab seeks central govt intervention in SYL issue

LiveMint logoLiveMint 20-04-2017 Jyotika Sood

New Delhi: Expressing concern at what it called the “critical water situation,” a Punjab government delegation on Thursday met senior officials of the central government and told them of Punjab’s inability to share water with neighbouring states like Haryana.

The state delegation also urged the central government to intervene in the Satluj-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue to save Punjab from an ecological disaster.

The SYL canal has been a bone of contention between Punjab and Haryana. It was conceived to share the waters of Ravi and Beas rivers after Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. However, Punjab has been opposing it citing riparian principles.

The issue is currently pending in the Supreme Court and is scheduled to come up for hearing next on 27 April. During the last hearing, the central government said that it would try to resolve the decades-old tussle.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized that its verdict allowing construction of the SYL canal in Haryana and Punjab has to be implemented.

An official delegation which included Punjab’s chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh other senior officials such as principal secretary (irrigation) K.B.S. Sidhu met Amarjit Singh, who is the secretary of the union water resources ministry, to convey its stand on the issue. The meeting lasted nearly an hour.

Later, the union water resource ministry also met a delegation of the Haryana government for their views. According to an official Punjab government spokesperson, “The state government urged the central government to take steps to prevent monsoon run-off to Pakistan and ensure that every extra drop of water is allowed to be used by Punjab.”

Punjab government officials told the centre that Punjab, one of India’s major farming states, does not have any surplus water. The delegation urged the central government to come up with a realistic solution to the problem, keeping the state’s water scarcity in view.

As per Punjab government’s estimates, only about 28% of Punjab’s land is canal-irrigated while the rest is dependent on tubewells.

“Punjab was in urgent need of expansion of its canal system to prevent the water crisis in the state from aggravating to devastating levels,” the delegation told the Union water secretary, as per an official statement.

At the meeting, Punjab highlighted the alarming decline in ground water table and said that the state was losing 12 MAF (million acre feet) of groundwater every year, putting huge stress on the groundwater system.

Of the 138 water blocks in the state, about 100 had been rendered “dark blocks” due to over-exploitation of underground water to sustain agriculture. Of these 100 blocks, 45 have been declared “critical” by the central government authorities. “Construction of SYL would lead to an estimated 10 lakh acres of land in the region going dry,” the delegation told the central government officials.

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