Link share

With the PAA in Punjab, what will happen to the Sutlej-Yamuna Link row of canals?

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS): Although a decades-old problem, the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue has been simmering with renewed rigor since July 2020, when the Supreme Court asked Punjab and Haryana to settle the case.

Among the multiple states of northwest India, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and part of Uttar Pradesh share the same water infrastructure and are regulated by two bodies and agreements: the Management Council of Bhakra Beas and the 1994 Upper Yamuna River Board Agreement/MoU. between the upper riparians of Yamuna namely Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

In SYL, it is the two states of Punjab and Haryana that have been fueling the dispute for more than four decades now. Delhi has no vested interest in the dispute, but a significant portion of Delhi’s water goes through Haryana and all it worries about is that it should continue to get a water supply uninterrupted on his part.

As the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is set to form the government of Punjab, the question now is whether the new government will go ahead with the completion of the canal or keep protesting.

What exactly is the problem with the Sutlej-Yamuna link channel?

The main rivers affected are Ravi and Beas. The states concerned are Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Rajasthan. Prior to the Punjab bifurcation, out of 15.85 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the two river basins, Rajasthan was allocated 8 MAF, Punjab received 7.20 MAF while J&K had a share of 0.65 MAF.

After 1976, when the Punjab Reorganization Act was operationalized, Haryana was given a share of 3.5 MAF, which Punjab had previously refused to share.

With the water flow overhaul in 1981, Punjab received 4.22 MAF, Haryana 3.5 MAF and 8.6 MAF went to Rajasthan. A canal connecting Sutlej to Yamuna to supply water to southern parts of Haryana was planned. Works for the over 200 km canal have been completed in Haryana, but the section through Punjab is incomplete.

In July 2020, the Supreme Court had ordered the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana to negotiate and settle the matter.

But why is Punjab against it?

The Green Revolution was responsible for India’s self-sufficiency in food grain production and Punjab had a major role to play in this. The state claimed that the food it produced was for the whole country, but the water it used was its own groundwater and therefore there was no need to share surface water with a other state.

Moreover, given the history of violence in Punjab, the powers that be believe that secessionist tendencies could try to take advantage of opposition to water sharing.

Instead, Punjab has asked for a court to discuss the matter again. He also demanded to determine the availability of water, which according to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), under which the water sharing agreement works for Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and even Delhi, has declined over the decades.

Will things change now with the changing of the guard in Punjab?