AAP's answer to Punjab-Haryana water row: Sharda Yamuna canal

AAP's answer to Punjab-Haryana water row: Sharda Yamuna canal

AAP's answer to Punjab-Haryana water row: Sharda Yamuna canal

Whichever party comes to power in Punjab, the issue of sharing river water and particularly that of the construction of the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal will be one of the most contentious issues to deal with.

The issue has been gaining momentum by the day with the Supreme Court having reportedly indicated that the canal will become a reality and the matter also gradually taking a centre stage in Haryana politics.

It is amid this scenario that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is riding high on its hopes of forming the next government in Punjab, has thrown in the spanner with their opinion that the Centre should commit before the Supreme Court that it will construct the Sharda Yamuna Link canal to address the water requirements in Haryana.

Senior party leader HS Phoolka said that the plan for this link was made under the project of interlinking of rivers in 2002. He added that under this project, a canal would be dug from Champawat district in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and be merged in to the Yamuna River near Karnal in Haryana.

Phoolka claimed that the project was found to be feasible in the studies carried out and even the Supreme Court had told the central government to construct the canal as the excessive water was causing floods in Uttarakhand and can instead be redirected and used in Haryana.

“Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal must talk to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ask his alliance partner to construct the Sharda-Yamuna Link canal so that the unnecessary conflict between two states (Punjab and Haryana) can be solved. The Centre must stop this step-motherly treatment towards Punjab,” Phoolka said while pointing out that the political inability and lack of will of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) –BJP combine and the Congress had created a tussle between Punjab and Haryana.

Phoolka said that the 1976 order on the construction of the SYL canal from Punjab to Haryana needs to be withdrawn by the Centre to solve the issue.

Watered down

A study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research in February 2015 by Anjali Verma and Dr Narendra Kumar says that the Sharda Yamuna Link project is one of the proposed links of the Himalayan part of the National Perspective Plan (NPP). This link is proposed to transfer surplus water from Sharda to the deficit Yamuna and shall be helpful in dealing with the flood and drought situations in India. The proposed link canal will take water from the Sharda river which is near Tanakpur town of Champawat district of Uttarakhand and transfer it to the Yamuna near Kairana village of Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.

This proposed link will transverse through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh fulfilling the water needs of the command areas and the areas en route – covering Champawat, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar districts in Uttarakhand along with Muzaffarnagar and Bijnor districts of Uttar Pradesh.

The command areas include Udham Singh Nagar Uttarakhand and Moradabad, Jyotiba Phule Nagar, Bijnor, Rampur, Bareilly and Badaun districts in Uttar Pradesh.

The study said that thereafter the flow of water will be towards the western parts of India and this link will also fulfill the water demands of other drought-prone regions of Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

The study pointed out that before joining the Yamuna, the link canal will cross important rivers like Sharda, Kosi, Ramganga and Ganga during its journey and hence four barrages namely Sharda, Kosi, Ramganga, Ganga are also proposed on these rivers to control flood.

This study also said that this project is being considered for the transfer of 11,680 million cubic meters (Mm3) surplus water. The length of this proposed link canal is 384 km and full supply depth is 7.8 metres.

But is it really viable?

But there have been many questions raised about the proposed plan becoming a reality. “How they will succeed in bringing the river waters right from one end of Uttarakhand to Haryana across Uttar Pradesh simply baffles me. When there are so many problems in water being brought from Punjab to neighbouring Haryana, I wonder how this will be achieved?” asked a senior media person who has been covering Uttarakhand right from its inception.

He also questioned the premise for this project that surplus of Sharda will be transferred to the Yamuna. “Since both these rivers have their source in the same Himalayas, isn't it obvious that when one is flooding the other will also be in the similar condition,?” he asked.

Renowned social activist who has been a part of several movements to save Uttarakhand's water resources, Dr Anil Joshi, told Catch, “Such a plan is a recipe for disaster. To execute it you will be making a new route for the river channel. One needs to understand that it is futile to tamper with nature. The river never followed such a route on its own. There is a need for the policy makers to understand this.”

He pointed to the problems that have erupted on account of the Indira Canal being taken to the Jodhpur area in Rajasthan. He said the planners did not take into account the underground geology and the rock structure. As a result the water table of the canal shot up and what followed was the menace of mosquitoes and other related problems.

Observers feel that whether it is the SYL construction in Punjab or the Sharda Yamuna Link channel, the issues also have a political dimension and somewhere there is politics involved at every level. There is a point of view that AAP is trying to throw the matter of the Punjab-Haryana dispute into the Centre's court.

When asked whether the four AAP MPs from Punjab would raise the matter in the Parliament, Phoolka said that the main issue right now besides simply raking it up in Parliament is that the Centre should go the Supreme Court and agree to the construction of Sharda Yamuna Link canal.

State issues

Meanwhile, the issue of getting its share of water continues to be raised in Haryana. In his address on the opening day of the Budget Session of the state Assembly Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki said that concerted efforts made by his government had resulted in a favourable verdict from the Supreme Court on the Presidential Reference, which has paved the way for initiation of the long-pending construction work on the remaining portion of the SYL Canal.

He further said that it was heartening to see that on 28 November 2016, an all-party delegation from Haryana submitted a memorandum to the President of India, seeking his intervention to ensure that 'our rightful and legitimate share in surplus Ravi-Beas waters' was allowed to reach their parched lands and thirsty villages.

“My government will earnestly keep pursuing the matter and shall do its best to protect the interests of the hard working and law abiding people of our state who have full faith in our Constitution and the judiciary,” Solanki added.

On the other hand, Punjab Congress President Captain Amarinder Singh has warned of a serious law and order problem in the old Naxalite and Khalistani belt of southern Punjab if the SYL canal construction is completed without taking the ground realities into account.

While airing due deference and respect to the Supreme Court, Amarinder said its directive on the SYL completion before going into the question of availability of water amounted to putting the cart before the horse.

He also pointed to the huge infrastructural cost involved in the canal construction, which would all come to nought if there is no water found subsequently to share with the neighbouring states.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen