We all are witnessing a change in the environment. Global warming is one of the factors for change in the environment. Global warming means the gradual heating of the earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere due to human activities. Due to global warming, we are witnessing a scarcity of water. To know, how global warming has affected our lifestyle let’s talk about the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal. Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal issue is highlighted once again. You must be wondering how it is connected with global warming? Let’s learn about the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal in detail for better understanding.

History of Punjab and Haryana

In 1966, the state of Haryana was formed. Earlier it was a part of Punjab. When Haryana was formed most of the rivers went under Punjab’s jurisdiction. Haryana didn’t have enough water so it demanded water from Punjab.

On 24 March 1976, the government of India issued a notification stating Haryana will be allocated with 3.5 MAF of water.

As Haryana required water it started work on the canal as soon as possible. The length of the Canal has been proposed 212 km. 121 km is part of Punjab whereas the remaining 91 km is part of Haryana. Haryana completed the canal work in June 1980. On the other hand, Punjab did not start work.

What is Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal?

Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal under construction                                             Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal under construction

Rajasthan was also in need of water. So in 1981 Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana entered an agreement to reallocate the waters of Ravi and Beas. Through this agreement, the union government started the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal project in 1982. A canal linking the Sutlej with the Yamuna, cutting across the states, was planned to enable Haryana to use its share of the waters of the Sutlej and its tributaries, Beas.

Punjab opposed the idea by stating Sutlej Yamuna’s link share of water to Haryana was based on the 1920 figures and at present, the water figures are different.

Haryana’s argument was it is a water-deficient state. For long it has been destitute for more than half of its legitimate share of 3.50 MAF which is in surplus in the Ravi-Beas water, which has to lead to a reduction in agriculture production.

The Supreme Court in 2002 ordered Punjab to move along with the digging of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal and the canal should be completed within a year.

In 2004 Punjab Assembly passed Punjab Termination of Agreements Act 2004 (to terminate the 1981 agreement and all other pacts related to sharing water of rivers Ravi and Beas)to make the earlier agreement null and void and declined to give any water to another state, especially to Haryana.

Central government decision on SYL Canal

The central government had no choice but to seek a presidential reference under Article 143 of the constitution on the validity of the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act.

Article 143 authorizes the President to seek the opinion of the supreme court in the two categories:

  1. On any question of law or fact of public importance which has arisen or which is likely to arise.

  • In this case, the supreme court may tender or may refuse to tender it’s opinion to the president.

 2.On any dispute arising out of any pre-constitution treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instruments.

  • In this case, the Supreme Court’must’tender it’s opinion to the president.

In both cases, the opinion expressed by the supreme court is only advisory and not a judicial pronouncement.

Hence, it is not binding on the president; he may follow or may not follow the opinion. However, it facilitates the government to have an authoritative legal opinion on a matter to be decided by it.

Article 143 In The Constitution Of India 

Power of President to consult Supreme Court 

(1) If at any time it appears to the President that a question of law or fact has arisen, or is likely to arise, which is of such a nature and such public importance that it is expedient to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court upon it, he may refer the question to that Court for consideration and the Court may, after such hearing as it thinks fit, report to the President its opinion thereon

(2) President may, notwithstanding anything in the proviso to Article 131, refer a dispute of the kind mentioned in the said proviso to the Supreme Court for opinion and the Supreme Court shall, after such hearing as it thinks fit, report to the President its opinion thereon.

Supreme Court Decision In 2016

In March 2016, the supreme court took the matter. Meanwhile, the Punjab legislation passed another act, the Punjab Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal (Rehabilitation and Re-vesting of Proprietary Rights) Bill 2016, which seeks to restore the land acquired for the canal, back to the farmers free of cost. Even though the Governor did not give the assent to the bill. Later the Supreme Court scrapped the 2004 act and directed the Punjab government to maintain the status quo on land marked for the construction of the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal.

Why Punjab Is Reacting This Way?

In January 2020, Punjab had demanded that suitable amendments be made 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.

“Punjab does not have surplus water and is facing the threat of desertification with reduced availability of its river water and fast depleting groundwater. The state’s groundwater that meets 73 percent of its irrigation requirements has declined to alarming levels, threatening the livelihood of farmers and other poor people.”

Punjab has been demanding assessment of the water availability in its rivers that has drastically reduced over the years. The Congress government has been stating that the level of rivers in the state has reduced from 17 million acre-feet (MAF) to less than 13 million acre-feet.

“Punjab would burn” if the state is forced to share water with Haryana under the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal project – Chief Minister of Punjab.

Haryana’s Arguments

Haryana claims it is a water deficit state. Haryana argues that it has difficulties providing water for irrigation purposes. It reportedly also faces a problem with drinking water in places where the underground water is depleted up to 1,700 feet.

 In January 2020, Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee President and Rajya Sabha MP, Kumari Selja, said that the Supreme Court had validated the Haryana’s right on the water of Sutlej Yamuna link. She added that Punjab’s decision regarding not providing water to Haryana is a clear violation of its order.

What Can Be The Solution?

  • According to me, Punjab should not construct the SYL canal. Although we know Harayan is also facing scarcity of water but we all have heard the phrase “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” same is happening here. So, Punjab should focus on their state people.
  • Although this is not the final solution Punjab has to think about its environmental policies and have to implement strict rules who violate these policies.
  • Agriculture revolution is required where better techniques are introduced with better fertilizers. The use of water should be minimized as much as possible so that water can be saved for other purposes. 
  • Modern irrigation methods should be introduced to minimize the use of water.
  • Rice is the major crop grown in Punjab, whereas rice requires a lot of water but in this situation, the government should provide subsidies to the rice farmers so they can grow crops that require less water.
  • The centre should step forward and bring both states to the negotiation table.

Final Thoughts

Coming back to global warming as we read above the water availability is decreased in Punjab. One of the reasons behind it is global warming. Punjab and Haryana are in water disputes for years. It is just the beginning where humans are facing water deficit. In this battle, it is difficult to say which side is right and which side is wrong. So, this is the time when we have to focus on global warming and have to ask for new policies for the environment.

Government has to invest in new technologies which can help in the betterment of the environment. And people have to understand their duties and the importance of water and the environment. If any of them fails, that day will not be far when we will not have water to drink. 

What do you think? Should Punjab construct Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal? Comment your thoughts.

Hi everyone, I'm pursuing higher education right now. I wish to enlighten the world with the importance of humanity and the bond we share with each other.

2 Replies to “The battle of Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal Project”

  1. Hi, I think it’s good idea to make a canal. However, it should not be considered as last resort to water scarcity problem and at the same time regional people as well as government should keep working in order to sustain existing water bodies n distribution system.

    1. Yes,If we focus more on sustainable development and aware people about water issues.Then their is no problem in building canal. Government should focus on agricultural revolution. We are glad that you gave your opinion. Thank you for your suggestion 🙂 . Please go through from our other blogs.

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