Punjab and Haryana today agreed to find through talks a collective solution to the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue. Responding to Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s call for discussions to resolve the decades-old SYL dispute, the two states agreed to try and find a collective solution, a release issued by the Punjab government said.
Rajnath’s plea came after Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, hosting the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, pushed for consensual resolution of the dispute by calling for coordination of the states and the government. Amarinder urged for a feasible solution for sharing of river waters based on internationally accepted riparian principles.
Agreeing to Amarinder’s suggestion of talks, the Home Minister said efforts should first be made to find a solution through marathon meetings, failing which the matter should be left to the courts to decide, the release said.
He suggested that the chief ministers and chief secretaries of the two states should sit and discuss the issue threadbare in order to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.
Amarinder suggested that the Union Water Resource Ministry should convene a meeting at the earliest.
Amarinder said about 10 lakh acres of southern Punjab was likely to go dry after the construction of the SYL and the region, which had seen the emergence of Naxalism, could become the hotbed of terrorism.
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Though Haryana had less land, it had been given more water at the time of Punjab’s reorganisation, said Amarinder, noting that Punjab did not get any share of the Yamuna water.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that his government was willing to work towards “amicable settlement” of every issue, “but we must always honour agreements arrived at in the past”.
“Since our faith in the Constitution is complete and unflinching, we would never hesitate in taking legal recourse in our determination to safeguard our interests and to protect the rights of residents of the state,” Khattar said at the meeting, according to a Haryana government release.
“Haryana is a water-stressed state. Against the demand of 36.0 MAF water, the availability is only 14.7 MAF. We have to give, out of our own share in the Yamuna waters, extra water to Delhi in compliance with the apex court’s orders, even as Punjab is not delivering Haryana’s full share of the Ravi-Beas water,” he added.
Khattar also said it was “most unfortunate” that thousands of villages in Haryana and millions of hectares of land are bereft of the water “that is our due from Punjab”.
Earlier, in his address, Amarinder reiterated his demand for re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers.
Noting that Punjab was suffering an ecological crisis because of depletion of ground water, he urged the central government to take expert advice on how to make reliable estimates of future flows in these rivers.
Others who attended the meeting were Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore, who is also UT Chandigarh’s Administrator, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Delhi Lt Governor Anil Baijal, Enivornment Minister Anil Madhav Dave, J-K Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh, Himachal Pradesh minister Thakur Kaul Singh and Rajasthan minister Ram Pratap.