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10 years and counting: Presidential reference on Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal

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Chandigarh: A canal that was to link two major rivers in Punjab and Haryana is awaiting a presidential reference for the past over 10 years to decide its fate.

Photo credit: panoramio.com
Photo credit: panoramio.com

The Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal, that was planned and major portions of it were even completed in the 1990s at a cost of over Rs.750 crore at that time, is entangled in a political and legal quagmire with Punjab and Haryana unwilling to give up their respective stands on the controversial canal issue and sharing of river waters.

“This is one case in the country which has been lying pending for Presidential reference for the last 10 years. Counsel of Haryana have been asked to strongly plead the case in the court of law,” Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said.

The matter, which has been disputed by both the states before the union government and the Supreme Court over the years, had gone for Presidential reference in 2004.

The reference was sought after the Punjab assembly unilaterally passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004, categorically stating that it was nullifying all agreements on water sharing and that no more water would be given to Haryana.

“The Haryana government is making efforts for early hearing of the SYL Canal case, which has been lying pending for Presidential reference,” Khattar said.

Haryana’s worry is two-fold — one, the state is not getting its “legitimate” share of water from Punjab and, secondly, Delhi is demanding more water from Haryana.

“Delhi is demanding more water from Haryana due to increasing pressure of population from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana side. Haryana is ready to give its share of water to Delhi but other states should also contribute to meet the water requirement of Delhi from Sutlej, Beas and Ganga rivers,” Khattar said.

While Sutlej, Beas and Ravi rivers flow through Punjab after coming from the Himachal Pradesh side, Yamuna is the only major river flowing through Haryana after coming from the Uttarakhand side.

The foundation stone of the canal was laid in April 1982 by then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

At that time, terrorism was on the rise in Punjab and the issue became a sensitive one with leaders in Punjab raking up the water-sharing issue. Terrorists gunned down labourers and officials involved in the canal construction to get the project stalled.

Several kilometers of the canal were constructed in Punjab and Haryana but the project never got completed.

“Over the years, the canal has dilapidated. The concrete lining is in shambles and wild growth is there all over. In rainy season, the canal portions get water-logged and become a nuisance for people, especially farmers,” Balbir Singh, a retired engineer who was once associated with the SYL construction, told IANS.

In 2014, the Haryana assembly passed a unanimous resolution seeking the centre’s intervention to resolve the water sharing and SYL issues.

(IANS)

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PM Narendra Modi Launches Plan to Tackle Water Shortage in India

Modi Unveils Plan to Tackle Water Shortages in India's Heartland States

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PM Modi
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks to the media inside the parliament premises on the first day of the winter session in New Delhi, India. VOA

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday launched a 60-billion-rupee ($842 million) plan to tackle water shortages in the country’s seven heartland states where agriculture is a mainstay.

India, the world’s second-most populous country, faces the worst long-term water crisis in its history as demand outstrips supply, threatening farm output and overall economic growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Almost every sector of the $2.6 trillion economy is dependent on water, especially agriculture, which sustains two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people.

“Water shortages in the country not only affect individuals and families; the crisis also has an effect on India’s development,” Modi said. “We need to prepare the new India to deal with every single aspect of the crisis.”

The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water and boost overall availability in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat states, which produce staples such as rice, wheat, sugar and oilseeds.

PM Narendra Modi
The plan launched by Modi would help replenish ground water. Wikimedia Commons

India is the world’s leading producer of an array of farm goods, and nearly 60% of the irrigation for agriculture comes from ground water, mainly through electric water pumps. Subsidised electricity gives farmers an incentive to pump out more water, a key reason behind fast-depleting water tables in the vast country.

Supplying clean drinking water to millions of poor people and reviving moribund irrigation projects were a key part of Modi’s policies for India, where the monsoon accounts for nearly 70% of the annual rains needed to water farms and recharge aquifers and reservoirs.

Nearly half of India’s farmland, without any irrigation cover, depends on annual June-September rains to grow a number of crops.

Drinking water is also an issue, as about 200,000 Indians die every year due to inadequate access to safe water and 600 million face high to extreme water stress, according to the National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, a think tank chaired by Modi.

According to UK-based charity WaterAid, about 163 million people in India — roughly 12% of the population — do not have access to clean water close to home.

Also Read- 45% Indians Feel that Enough Steps are Not Taken for Women’s Safety: Survey

Every summer water shortages tend to be more acute in large cities such as the capital New Delhi, Chennai — a car-making center dubbed “India’s Detroit”, and Bengaluru, the country’s software capital.

Modi also exhorted farmers to increasingly adopt drip and sprinkler irrigation and use water-management techniques as well as eschewing water-guzzling crops such as rice and sugar cane. (VOA)