A. Opposing the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project and staking claim to Yamuna’s waters, Punjab Chief Minister warned about the repercussions.He has warned the Centre of political unrest in the state if asked to proceed with the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project.
Q. What is the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal issue?
At the time of reorganization of Punjab in 1966, the issue of sharing of river waters between both the states emerged.
Punjab refused to share waters of Ravi and Beas with Haryana stating it was against the riparian principle, which dictates that the water of a river belongs only to the State and country or States and countries through which the river in question flows.
Before the reorganization, in 1955, out of 15.85 MAF of Ravi and Beas, the Centre had allocated 8 MAF to Rajasthan, 7.20 MAF to undivided Punjab, 0.65MAF to Jammu and Kashmir.
Out of 7.20 MAF allocated, Punjab did not want to share any water with Haryana.
In March 1976, when the Punjab Reorganization Act was implemented, the Centre notified fresh allocations, providing 3.5 MAF To Haryana.
Q. What about Inception of the canal project?
Later, in 1981, the water flowing down Beas and Ravi was revised and pegged at 17.17 MAF, out of which 4.22 MAF was allocated to Punjab, 3.5 MAF to Haryana, and 8.6 MAF to Rajasthan.
Finally, to provide this allocated share of water to southern parts of Haryana, a canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting across the state, was planned.
The construction of 214-km SYL was started in April 1982, 122 km of which was to run through Punjab and the rest through Haryana.
Haryana has completed its side of the canal, but work in Punjab has been hanging fire for over three decades.
Q. Why has the SYL canal come up again now?
The issue is back on centre stage after the Supreme Court directed the CMs of Punjab and Haryana to negotiate and settle the SYL canal issue.
The apex court asked for a meeting at the highest political level to be mediated by the Centre so that the states reach a consensus over the completion of the SYL canal.
The meeting remained inconclusive with the Centre expressing the view that the construction of the SYL canal should be completed. But Punjab CM refused categorically.
Q. What is Punjab’s resentment with the project?
The dispute is based on the bloody history around the SYL canal. The trouble-torn days of terrorism in Punjab started in the early 1980s when work on the SYL started.
Punjab feels it utilized its precious groundwater resources to grow the crop for the entire country and should not be forced to share its waters as it faces desertification.
Punjab is facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of its underground aquifers during Green Revolution and later.
It is feared that once the construction of the canal restarts, the youth may start feeling that the state has been discriminated against once the construction of canal restarts.
The Punjab CM fears Pakistan and secessionist organisations could exploit this and foment trouble in the state.
Q. What is current state of Water crisis in Punjab?
Punjab is facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of its underground aquifers for the wheat/paddy monocycle.
According to the Central Underground Water Authority’s report, its underground water is over-exploited to meet the agriculture requirements in about 79 per cent area of the state.
Out of 138 blocks, 109 are “over-exploited”, two are “critical” five are “semi-critical” and only 22 blocks are in “safe” category.
Q. What is Punjab’s demand now?
The state wants a tribunal seeking a fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability.
The state has been saying that till date there has been no adjudication or scientific assessment of Punjab river waters.