Punjab CM bats for tribunal to assess water availability

Amarinder Singh

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh


Urging the Central government to be cautious on the SYL issue, which has the potential to disturb the nation's security

Chandigarh: Urging the Central government to be cautious on the SYL issue, which has the potential to disturb the nation's security, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday reiterated the need for a tribunal to make a fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability, even as he sought complete share of water for his state from the total resource available, including from the Yamuna river.

"You have to look at the issue from the national security perspective. If you decide to go ahead with the SYL, Punjab will burn and it will become a national problem, with Haryana and Rajasthan also suffering the impact," Amarinder Singh told the Centre, during a video conference with Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

The Chief Minister later described the meeting as 'positive and cordial' and said the Union Minister seemed to understand Punjab's viewpoint.

Punjab remains at risk from all ends, said Amarinder Singh, pointing to Pakistan's continued attempts to foment trouble and to try and revive the separatist movement through the banned Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) organisation.

The water issue could further destabilise the state, he warned.

Punjab had a right to Yamuna water, in which it did not get a share at the time of the 60:40 division of assets with Haryana during the state's division in 1966, the Chief Minister said, even as he expressed his willingness to sit across the table with his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar to discuss the 'emotive' issue.

He also suggested that Rajasthan be involved in the discussions on the SYL canal and the Ravi-Beas waters issue as it was also a stakeholder.

It was decided during the meeting that the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana will meet in Chandigarh, on a date to be fixed later, for further talks on the issue, and will then approach the Union Minister again.

Putting forth Punjab's stand during the meeting, Amarinder Singh said taht it was necessary to set up a tribunal for fair adjudication of the water availability, and pointed out that the water sharing proposed by the Eradi Commission was 40 years old, while international norms require a review every 25 years to ascertain the status.

Noting that there had, in fact, been no adjudication or scientific assessment of available Punjab river waters till date, the Chief Minister said the BBMB had reported that availability of Ravi-Beas water had come down from the estimated 17.17 MAF in 1981 to 13.38 MAF in 2013.

Despite being a non-basin state and having a smaller population as well as lesser cultivated land area, Haryana's total availability of river water stood at 12.48 MAF as against Punjab's 12.42 MAF, he noted.

He pointed out that trans-basin transfer of water can only be allowed from a surplus basis to a deficit basis, and, as of today, Punjab is a deficit state and could not, therefore, be asked to transfer water to Haryana.

Amarinder Singh said that he had taken a concerted decision to terminate all water agreements back in 2004 to save Punjab from burning, amid reports that violence could erupt in the state in protest.

The situation had aggravated since then, he said, adding that 109 of the state's 128 blocks had officially been declared 'dark zones'.

Pointing to the melting glaciers, he urged the Central government to take the climate change effects into account.

The situation was likely to worsen with China constructing dams in their territory, warned Amarinder Singh, adding that this would lead to water shortage even in the Satluj river.

"Why would I not agree to give water if we had it," he said, adding that certain areas of south Haryana were in fact part of the erstwhile Patiala estate and he personally had special love for the region.

The Chief Minister recalled that he had suggested construction of water storage dams in Himachal Pradesh for collecting water so that the flow of water into Pakistan could be checked. He urged the Union Minister to consider the suggestion.

The Union Minister was of the view that carriers could be constructed and the SYL could also be completed and kept ready while discussions on water sharing continue and the final formula could be decided later.

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