Punjab expresses its opposition to the decision of waiving off the requirement for Himachal to draw water.

Chandigarh, June 14 Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday opposed the decision of the Central government to waive off the conditions of seeking no-objection certificate (NOC) for drawing water by Himachal Pradesh for water supply and irrigation schemes.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister said “it is unfortunate that the Union government had issued directions to the Chairman of Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) in this regard on May 15, 2023”.

He said vide these directions, the Central government has directed the Chairman of the BBMB to do away with the present mechanism of NOC with the condition that the cumulative drawal by the government of Himachal Pradesh is kept below their analogous share in power i.e. 7.19 per cent as decided by the Supreme Court.

Mann said the BBMB shall only carry out technical feasibility study for drawal of water by Himachal Pradesh for water supply and irrigation projects, if it involves engineering structures of the BBMB and convey the necessary technical requirements to Himachal Pradesh, within 60 days from receipt of such request.

The Chief Minister said this decision is completely unjustified, baseless and grave injustice with Punjab because as per the water agreements, no water is required to be allocated to Himachal Pradesh out of the Sutlej and Beas rivers.

He said though the Supreme Court has allowed 7.19 per cent share to Himachal Pradesh but that share only relates to power and no orders have been issued by the apex court regarding the sharing of water.

Moreover, Mann said the sharing of water is an interstate dispute and no unilateral directions can be issued to share the waters by the states.

The Chief Minister said the BBMB was constituted under Section 79 (1) of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966, as per which the mandate of the board is only for administration, maintenance and operation of the dam and reservoirs viz. Nangal hydel channel and irrigation headworks at Ropar, Harike and Ferozepur.

He categorically said as per the Act, the BBMB is not authorised to give any water out of the rivers to any state other than the partner states, adding Himachal Pradesh is not a partner state.

Mann said the water of Sutlej, Ravi and Beas have been allocated to Punjab, Haryana, Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi and Rajasthan under separate agreements, and Himachal Pradesh cannot raise any claim on the waters of the said rivers.

The Chief Minister said the water of these rivers has been earmarked for specific areas of the partner states, and the allocated water is supplied through a specific canal system.

He said water is a state subject covered under Entry 17 of State list-II of the Constitution and the determination or adjudication of rights of river waters fall in the exclusive jurisdiction of a tribunal to be constituted by the Central government as per the provision of the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956, enacted under Article 262 of the Constitution, based on a complaint raised by a state government.

Mann said the partner states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have been very liberal in the past to provide water out of the interstate carrier channels to the Himachal Pradesh for drinking purposes.

However, the Chief Minister said the government of India had by instant directions also included the irrigation schemes. He recalled that during the previous years, the BBMB has allowed release of water on 16 different occasions to Himachal Pradesh.

Mann said in the present circumstances when the water in the rivers is declining drastically year after year and there have been pressing demands for water by all the partner states namely, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, above said unilateral decision of the government of India needs to be reconsidered and withdrawn.

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