Emotive issue of Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal takes political center stage again in Punjab, Haryana

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A view of the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) canal in Punjab.  The Centrally-funded canal links Sutlej with the Yamuna.  It is to carry Haryana's share (3.5 million acre feet) of Sutlej waters.  The Center has spent about Rs.  450 crores on the canal.  The construction was abandoned in 1990 at the height of militancy in Punjab.  Photo: S.Subramanium 23-07-2004

A view of the SYL (Sutlej-Yamuna Link) canal in Punjab. The Centrally-funded canal links Sutlej with the Yamuna. It is to carry Haryana’s share (3.5 million acre feet) of Sutlej waters. The Center has spent about Rs. 450 crores on the canal. The construction was abandoned in 1990 at the height of militancy in Punjab. Photo: S. Subramanium 23-07-2004 | Photo Credit: SUBRAMANIUM S

A day after the Supreme Court asked the Union government to conduct a survey of the land allocated for construction of part of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — the focal point of a water-sharing dispute between Haryana and Punjab — the emotive issue. has yet again taken the political center stage in the region.

The Punjab Cabinet, chaired by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, opined on Thursday that the State has no spare water to share with any other State, so there is no question of construction of the SYL canal. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), meanwhile, appealed to Punjabis to gherao any Central teams wishing to conduct a survey of SYL canal land in the State.

‘No surplus water’

According to a government statement, the Cabinet asserted that Punjab has no surplus water to share with Haryana, arguing that reassessment of the availability of water was required as per international norms. “It was also observed that Punjab’s 76.5% blocks (117 out of 153) are over-exploited where the stage of ground water extraction is more than 100%, whereas in Haryana only 61.5% (88 out of 143) are over-exploited, ” the statement said.

Addressing a press conference here, senior SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia asked both the Aam Aadmi Party-led government as well as the State unit of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) to clarify their stance on the proposed survey which is to be conducted by the Union government.

Asserting that there was no need for any survey, Mr. Majithia said that the Punjab BJP must officially tell the BJP-led Union government to desist from conducting any survey to identify land for the SYL.

‘SYL water is Haryana’s right’

In Haryana, former Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh Hooda said that the SYL canal construction has been stuck till now date due to the negative attitude of the State’s BJP-JJP coalition government. Mr. Hooda said that while the Punjab government was disregarding the decision of the Supreme Court, the Haryana government had kept wasting time by holding inconclusive meetings.

“Now the Supreme Court has once again reiterated its decision. But surprisingly, ignoring the issue of taking Haryana’s rightful share of water, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal is considering it only as a matter of canal construction. SYL water is the right of Haryana and it is very important for the agriculture of the State. The government should take this issue seriously. Irrigation will be possible on more than 10 lakh acres of land in the State when this water becomes available for the State,” he said.

“If the Haryana government takes any step to provide water to Haryana, then Congress will rise above politics and stand with the government. But if the government continues to adopt this wavering attitude, then Congress will oppose it and will raise its voice to defend the interests of the State,” Mr. Hooda added.

On Wednesday, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal had urged the Punjab government to ensure compliance with the orders of the Supreme Court. Underscoring the significance of the SYL canal for the state of Haryana, Mr. Lal had stated that the construction of the SYL was the rightful entitlement of the people of Haryana. “If the SYL is constructed, then with this water share that belongs to Haryana, about 10.08 lakh acres of State land will be irrigated,” he pointed out.

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