Interstate River Water Dispute

Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal Project

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sutlej Yamuna Link

Mains level : Inter-state water disputes

Opposing the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project and staking claim to Yamuna’s waters, Punjab CM warned about the repercussions. Here is a look at the decades-old issue and why it has come up again now.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Which one of the following pairs is not correctly matched? (CSP 2017)

Dam/Lake River

(a) Govind Sagar: Satluj

(b) Kolleru Lake: Krishna

(c) Ukai Reservoir: Tapi

(d) Wular Lake: Jhelum

What is the SYL 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.
  • 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.

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.
  • Finally, 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.

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.

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.
  • It is feared that once the construction of the canal restarts, the youth may start feeling that the state has been discriminated against.
  • The Punjab CM fears Pakistan and secessionist organisations could exploit this and foment trouble in the state.

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.

Punjab expects a new tribunal

  • 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.
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