Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday warned that “Punjab would burn” if the state is forced to share water resources with Haryana under the Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal project. He urged the Centre to be cautious on the issue, which, he said had the “potential to disturb the nation’s security”.
The remarks were made at a virtual meeting with his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar along with Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. The meeting was convened on the directions of the Supreme Court, which had asked the Centre on July 28 to mediate between the two states on the long-pending water dispute, according to PTI.
“You have to look at the issue from the national security perspective,” Singh said at the meeting, according to a statement by the Punjab government. “If you decide to go ahead with SYL, Punjab will burn and it will become a national problem, with Haryana and Rajasthan also suffering the impact.”
The Punjab chief minister claimed that his state “remains at risk from all ends”, as he pointed to Pakistan’s continued attempts to “foment trouble and to try and revive the separatist movement” through the banned Sikhs for Justice organisation. “The water issue could further destabilise the state,” the statement quoted him as saying.
Singh also reiterated the need for a tribunal to make a fresh time-bound assessment of the water availability, even as he sought complete share of water for his state from the total resource available, including from the Yamuna river. Besides this, he suggested that Rajasthan be involved in discussions on the SYL Canal and the Ravi-Beas waters issue “as it was also a stakeholder”.
“Punjab had a right to Yamuna water, in which it did not get a share at the time of 60:40 division of assets with Haryana during the state’s division in 1966,” he added. “I have suggested that they should include the water of Yamuna also and then divide it on 60:40 basis.”
Singh added that he was willing to sit and discuss the issue with his Haryana counterpart. “Why would I not agree to give water if we had it,” he said at the meeting that he later described as “positive and cordial”.
Khattar, meanwhile, said he hoped for an amicable solution to the decades-old issue. “We maintained our stand that the SYL should be constructed,” he was quoted as saying by PTI. “The Supreme Court, too, has said that.”
It was decided during the meeting that the Chief Ministers of Punjab and Haryana will meet in Chandigarh, on a date to be fixed later, for further talks on the issue, and will then go to Shekhawat again.
The Satluj Yamuna Link has been a contentious issue between the two states. The canal is meant to allow Haryana to draw its share of water from the Ravi and Beas rivers, besides distributing water among four other states – Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Delhi. It was decided in 1981 that both Punjab and Haryana would construct their portions of the canal within their territories.
Haryana constructed the portion of the canal, but Punjab stopped work after the initial phase. In 2004, the state government passed the Punjab Termination of Agreement Act to end the 1981 agreement. In 2016, the Supreme Court struck down the law that dismissed the pact to share water. In February 2017, it said Punjab cannot defy its order on construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal and asked the Centre to take over construction of the canal.