Punjab and Haryana chief ministers Bhagwant Mann and Manohar Lal Khattar on Friday failed to make any headway in the ongoing stalemate over the construction of the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal with both states sticking to their stated positions.
Also read: Opposition warns CM Bhagwant Mann against compromise on SYL issue
After a two-hour meeting with Khattar at Haryana Niwas in Chandigarh, Mann said he told his Haryana counterpart in clear-cut terms that the canal cannot be constructed as Punjab does not have any water to share. “The land (for the construction of the canal) has been denotified and given back to people who are now cultivating it,” he told reporters.
On his part, Khattar said that there is a decree of the Supreme Court that needs to be executed by Punjab and the water carrier channel should be constructed. He said the issue of availability of water can be resolved subsequently. The talks between the two chief ministers were held after the Supreme Court recently nudged them to meet to find an amicable solution to the long-standing dispute. The next date of hearing in the apex court is January 18, 2023.
Punjab has no water to share: Mann
The Punjab chief minister said the state has no water to share with Haryana as the river waters availability has come down substantially and the groundwater level has also gone down. “Haryana wants the construction of the canal, but we told them that when we do not have water, why is it even needed? There is a need to reassess the river waters availability,” he said. He also suggested that if people of Haryana want water, they (he and Khattar) can go and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and request him to arrange water for them from Yamuna or somewhere else. “We have no water, and cannot give what we do not have,” he said, pointing out that at the time of the 1981 agreement, Punjab had 18.566 million acre feet (MAF) of water which has now come down to 12.636 MAF.
Haryana has been seeking the completion of the SYL Canal to get its share of 3.5 MAF feet of the river waters and also that Punjab should comply with the 2002 and 2004 Supreme Court orders for its completion for bringing the Ravi-Beas waters.
At present, the state is getting 1.62 MAF of Ravi-Beas waters.
The opposition parties in Punjab had asked Mann to stand firm on his ground on the SYL issue.
Punjab not cooperating, Centre had told SC
The Centre had on September 6 informed the Supreme Court that the Punjab government was “not cooperating” in resolving the dispute.
Then attorney general K K Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, had told the bench that the apex court had in 2017 called for an amicable settlement and that it was trying to bring the two states on the same page through its Jal Shakti ministry. “Unfortunately, Punjab has not been cooperating,” the top law officer had said.
However, the counsel for Punjab had last month told a bench headed by justice SK Kaul that the state government was keen to resolve the issue amicably.
The Punjab assembly in July 2004 had enacted the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, annulling all inter-state agreements signed by the state relating to sharing of the Ravi and Beas waters.
However, a constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, while answering the Presidential Reference on November 11, 2016, had held that the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act, 2004, was unconstitutional.