- GS-2: Federalism & its challenges
Punjab-Haryana Water Dispute
Context: The Haryana Vidhan Sabha has passed a resolution seeking completion of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (SYL) Canal, bringing back into focus the contentious issue of sharing of river waters between Haryana and Punjab.
The river waters
- The canal, once completed, will enable sharing of the waters of the rivers Ravi and Beas between the two states.
- The issue dates back to 1966 at the time of reorganisation of Punjab and formation of Haryana was formed.
- Punjab was opposed to sharing the waters of the two rivers with Haryana, citing riparian principles.
- A decade before the formation of Haryana, the water flowing down Ravi and Beas was assessed at 15.85 million acre feet (MAF) per year.
- The Union government had organised a meeting in 1955 between the three stake-holders — Rajasthan, undivided Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir — and allotted 8 MAF per year to Rajasthan, 7.20 MAF to undivided Punjab and 0.65 MAF to J&K.
- A decade after reorganisation, the Centre issued a notification allocating 3.5 MAF to Haryana out of the 7.2 MAF allotted to Punjab before reorganisation.
- In a reassessment in 1981, the water flowing down Beas and Ravi was estimated at 17.17 MAF, of which 4.22 MAF was allocated to Punjab, 3.5 MAF to Haryana, and 8.6 MAF to Rajasthan.
- On April 8, 1982, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi launched the construction of the SYL Canal in Patiala district.
- A stretch of 214 km was to be constructed, out of which 122 km was to cross Punjab and 92 km in Haryana.
- But the Akalis launched an agitation in the form of Kapoori Morcha against the construction of the canal. Then in July 1985, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and then Akali Dal chief Sant Harchand Singh Longowal signed an accord agreeing for a new tribunal to assess the water.
- The Eradi Tribunal headed by Supreme Court Judge V Balakrishna Eradi was set up to reassess availability and sharing of water.
- In 1987, the tribunal recommended an increase in the shares of Punjab and Haryana to 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF, respectively.
Canal and Militancy
- On August 20, 1985, Longowal was killed by militants, less than a month for signing the accord.
- In 1990, a chief engineer M L Sekhri and a Superintending Engineer Avtar Singh Aulakh were killed by militants.
- In other violence, labourers were shot dead in Majat village near Chunni and Bharatgarh near Ropar. The construction came to a halt.
- In the backdrop of these incidents, Punjab leaders has been cautioning the Centre not to rake up the issue again.
- As per a state government study, many areas in Punjab may go dry after 2029.
- The state has already over-exploited its groundwater for irrigation purposes. Out of 138 blocks, 109 blocks are “over-exploited”.
- In such a situation, the government says sharing water with any other state is impossible.
- Haryana has been staking claim to the Ravi-Beas waters through the SYL Canal on the plea that providing water for irrigation was a tough task for the state.
- In southern parts, where underground water had depleted up to 1700 feet, there was a problem of drinking water.
- Haryana has been citing its contribution to the central food pool and arguing that it is being denied its rightful share in the water as assessed by a tribunal.
Connecting the dots: