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No plan to stop existing water flows, says Amarinder Singh

By Our Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH, JULY 16. While the Termination of Agreements Bill, 2004 is aimed at protecting its own rights, Punjab has no plans to stop or reduce the existing flow of river water to Haryana and Rajasthan through the new legislation.

However, there is hardly any possibility of working out a political solution as the different sides had adopted extremely tough positions.

This was the opinion of the Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, who clarified the State Government's stand while speaking at a press conference here today.

He came down heavily on different sections of the political leadership which, he said, were misusing the media to create baseless opinion to project Punjab as a "villain." He said most of those who were giving their opinion had not even gone through the new Act.

Quoting Section 5 of the Termination of Agreements Bill, 2004, Capt. Singh said it fully protected the current utilisation of the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej waters by the neighbouring States. The section clearly stipulated that all existing and actual utilisation through the existing systems shall remain protected and unaffected, he stressed. It was for the first time that the Punjab Assembly had assured river waters to the neighbouring States, he said.

The Chief Minister said Haryana was already utilising 5.95 million acre feet (MAF) of water, which included 4.33 MAF from Sutlej and about 1.62 MAF from Ravi and Beas. Under the Yamuna Agreement of May 12, 1994, Haryana has been allocated 4.65 MAF, which would be further augmented by the Sharda-Yamuna Link Canal, meaning that the State had resources to the tune of 10.60 MAF, which was more than that available with Punjab.

This, he said, was in contradiction with the provisions of the Punjab Re-organisation Act 1966, which had mandated that the assets between the two States were to be divided on the 60:40 ratio by Punjab and Haryana respectively.

He justified the Punjab Act to terminate the 1981 Agreement, which allowed 3.5 MAF each for Punjab and Haryana and 8.60 MAF for Rajasthan from the Ravi-Beas flow, which was at that time estimated to be 17.17 MAF. Capt. Singh said if the huge trans-basin diversion is allowed, it would have a permanent adverse effect on 9-lakh acres of farm land jeopardising the livelihood of 15-lakh families.

He also pointed out that diversion of water from a donor deficit Ravi-Beas basin to a surplus Yamuna basin was against the guidelines of the national water policy.

Arguing that there could not be two separate application of the same law, he quoted the rejection of Punjab's claim on Yamuna waters and Rajasthan's on Narmada on the Riparian principle.

He said that the river waters were not apportioned when Maharashtra was separated from Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh from Tamil Nadu, even when they were successor States.

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