Can'tIndia evolve a new policy for resolving water disputes?
-ana portions of Chandi-garh and adjoining townships celebrated ?Diwali? while the rest of the city falling within Punjab, wore black badges to mourn.
A deligation of Tamil Nadu MPs meeting with the
Why? Because the Supreme Court on June 4 asked a central agency to take up the construction of the 122-kilometre stretch of the Sutlej-Yamuna Canal (SYL) which is aimed at bringing waters of the Beas river through the Bhakra system to the semi-arid districts of Haryana. Punjab has been refusing to undertake the work in spite of an earlier Supreme Court order to complete the work by January 15, 2002.
All political parties in Punjab are dismayed at the latest Supreme Court order and it is apparent that it would be very, very difficult for a central agency?the Border Roads Organisation has been named in this connection?to undertake the work despite the Supreme Court order. Punjab has been insisting since the bifurcation of the state in 1966 that it does not have surplus waters for feeding the SYL canal.
All political parties in Punjab are dismayed at the latest Supreme Court order and it is apparent that it would be very, very difficult for a central agency?the Border Roads Organisation has been named in this connection?to undertake the work despite the Supreme Court order.
Haryana, on the other hand, has been striving hard to persuade Punjab to complete the canal portion falling within its territory, so that the completed portion of the canal in Haryana would start receiving water for irrigation and drinking purposes. Imagine, if the composite state of Punjab was not bifuracted in 1966, what would have been the attitude of the people of that state towards this project?they would have certainly completed the scheme much ahead of schedule in order to make the state agriculturally strong and economically advanced.
Now let us take a look towards the south. Come June and the ?Kuruvai? paddy season begins in Tamil Nadu and the state?no matter which party is in power?would start clamouring for release of more water from the Cauvery reservoir (Stanley Dam) at Mettur for saving the crop in the Cauvery delta areas of the state. The Cauvery originates at Talacauvery in the Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka and after 803 kilometres, meets the Bay of Bengal at Kaveripattan, in Tamil Nadu. Its runoff amounts to 790 TMC (thousand million cubic foot). Is this volume sufficient for taking kharif crops in the two states as also a rabi paddy (samba) during the winter months in Tamil Nadu? There is some amount of rainfall in Tamil Nadu during the north-east (winter) monsoon, which can help the samba paddy.
During very good south-west monsoon years, Karnataka has no problem providing water to Tamil Nadu. In the years of scarcity only, these two states assume the role of adversaries leading to serious situations once in a while. Is there no solution to this problem?
All that the two states and the Union Government can do now is to invoke the River Water Disputes Act in order to set up a River Water Disputes Tribunal which takes years and years to pronounce its verdict (the amendment to the water policy has now shortened the time) and even then the states concerned may not feel too happy about it. Punjab is not happy with the Eradi Tribunal order on the Ravi-Beas water dispute, and the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award has not fully satisfied Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal also falls in this category.
If only ten hours, repeat ten hours of this flow is diverted south towards Tamil Nadu, the enitre state can have irrigation waters for a full year plus a full-to-the brim Stanley (Mettur) reservoir.
Let us now look towards another aspect of the Cauvery problem. Two rivers, both within Karnataka, originate in the hills around Sakaleshpur area on the Hassan-Mangalore route which receives very heavy rainfall?at times reaching 5,000 milli-metres?during the monsoon months. River Nethravathi meets the Arabian Sea near Mangalore and the other river, the Hemavathy, joins the Cauvery at the Krishnarajasagar Dam.
If the Hemavathy were to be linked with the Netravathi in the hill areas, not much displacement of people will result?some volume of the water going waste into the Arabian Sea can be diverted to the Hemavathy and to the Cauvery at the Krishna-rajasagar Dam, as it will help Karnataka to provide more water to Tamil Nadu. In fact, this scheme is part of the inter-linking of rivers proposal. Since both these rivers fall in the same state, there would not arise any state problem. The question one would like to ask here is why don'tKarnataka, Tamil Nadu and the Centre jointly take up this scheme and resolve the issue once and for all instead of wasting time and money over visits to Delhi, pleading with the Prime Minister for their shares and issuing statements to the media every other day?
Let us look towards Punjab now. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, India has got exclusive rights to use the waters of the Sutlej, the Ravi and the Beas rivers. Two dams across the Beas are helping Punjab irrigate its land and also augment the supply in the Bhakra reservoir. A dam has been constructed on River Ravi at Thein?the Ranjit Sagar Dam?and a Ravi-Beas link canal is also in place. India can utilise waters of these three rivers upto their last drop.
Instead, the Ravi still continues to let its waters flow into Pakistan helping that country irrigate land and keep the city of Lahore alive, besides helping it build the Ichhogil Canal. The waters of the Sutlej and the Beas?in spite of the dams and barrages across them?still flow into Pakistan helping it irrigate vast tracts of land.
Additionally, during the rains, Pakistan is said to be taking steps to push back waters of the Ravi towards India?the right bank of River Ravi is partially in Pakistan and remaining in Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts of Punjab. Is it not possible to divert these waters towards Punjab and augment the availability of water in the state by this scheme, if feasible? Or why not take steps to stop the flow of water into Pakistan after the Harike Barrage near Ferozepur is completed, thus retaining the waters of the Beas and the Sutlej for providing some water to the SYL link canal?
Let us get back to the Cauvery issue once again. The Godavari, that flows from near Nasik in Maharashtra to Antarvedi in Andhra Pradesh, gets a huge amount of precipitation during the south-west monsoon months. The discharge volume at the Dowlaiswaram Barrage near Rajahmundry goes upto 30 lakh cusecs (cubic foot per second) during August in most of the years. If only ten hours, repeat ten hours, of this flow is diverted south towards Tamil Nadu, the enitre state can have irrigation waters for a full year plus a full-to-the brim Stanley (Mettur) reservoir. All that needs be done is for Andhra Pradesh to build a canal to the Krishna at Vijayawada (Prakasham Bar-rage) and then a further canal to the River Pennar and River Cauvery, with provisions for en route irrigation, drinking, industrial and domestic use. This scheme too is part of the inter-linking proposal.
Maharashtra is now going to be vocal on the water issue after suffering four years of drought in the southern districts that has turned millionaire grape-growers into seekers of work under the Employment Guarantee Scheme. Instead of wasting time of the State Legislature, calling on the Prime Minister and Central leaders, and issuing endless statements to the media, a more practical approach could be to commence invesgitations and surveys on the feasibility of diverting, mostly through tunnels, the huge amount of rainfall received every year in the Konkan region, just across the Sahyadari, and prevent the water from going waste into the Arabian Sea every monsoon.
Is it always necessary to politicise water issues? Can'twe evolve a consensus on thinking positively towards resolving the issues rather than observing Diwalis or mournings? Aren'twe all sons and daughters of the same mother?the Bharat Mata?