Expressing grave concern over Punjab’s critical water situation, an all-party meeting, chaired by Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Thursday demanded reassessment of the state’s water availability and unanimously resolved that the Centre should ensure that Punjab river water is not in any way transferred from basin to non-basin areas of the state’s three rivers.
All parties also unanimously demanded suitable amendments to the proposed Inter-State River Water Disputes Act to set up a new tribunal, to ensure that Punjab gets adequate water “in a just and equitable manner in keeping with its total demand and securing livelihood of the future generations.”
The resolution read: “Punjab does not have surplus water and is facing a threat of desertification with declining availability of its river water and fast depleting groundwater. State’s groundwater that meets 73 per cent of its irrigation requirements, has declined to alarming levels, threatening the livelihood of farmers and other poor people”.
“In such a situation, it is unanimously resolved that the Government of India should ensure that Punjab river water is not in any way transferred from basin to non-basin areas of three rivers, namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas as per internationally accepted riparian principle,” it said.
“Further, alternatives should be ascertained, including amendments to the proposed Inter-State River Water Disputes Act to set up a new tribunal for a complete de novo assessment of availability of river waters before final decision, to harness, develop and provide adequate water to Punjab in a just and equitable manner in keeping with its total demand and securing livelihood of the future generations,” the resolution, moved by Cabinet minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, said.
Though the resolution did not mention Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal, leaders of all political parties, including the Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party, termed any move to construct the canal fatal for the state.
The CM said his government would seek time from the Prime Minister to take an all-party delegation to represent Punjab’s case. The internationally accepted riparian principles had been ignored in the distribution of water in India, he pointed out, stressing the need to correct the same.
Expressing concern over the depleting groundwater table, Amarinder observed that the level in Punjab rivers had reduced from 17 million acre-feet (MAF), as listed by the Eradi Commission, to less than 13 MAF now. His government, said the CM, had been pressing the Prime Minister to form a fresh Commission to assess the current water levels in Punjab’s three rivers. This was imperative in view of the changed situation, he said.