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Technical and Economic Aspects
Technical and economic aspects of the SYL project are important factors meriting detailed discussion. Their examination in detail will become urgent if and when the project is okayed for execution through a legal or contractual arrangement. Still some of the salient economic and technical factors relevant to the subject under discussion are referred to here.
India is a vast land mass and its various States are its constituent units for smooth governance in accordance with its Constitution. Various rivers of India flow in its different parts through natural action. Their waters should be utilized prudently, economically and through technically sound schemes for the good of the country as a whole. The rivers Ravi, Beas and Satluj lie in that part of the country that is called Punjab. The lands of Punjab need all the waters of these rivers and there is no surplus water that may be distributed among other parts of the country. Because of the drainage gradient of these rivers and the Punjab lands being in their proximity in their drainage basins, these constitute most suitable and viable tract of India for the use of waters of these rivers. Punjab lands can be irrigated much more economically and for much higher productivity with the waters of these rivers than what their use in any other parts of the country would achieve. Then, why to insist on carrying waters of these rivers to other parts of India, that is Rajasthan and Haryana which are non-riparian to these rivers and constitutionally debarred from laying any claim on their waters ?
Waters of river Beas are sought to be diverted to Satluj through expensive projects to make carriage of water to Haryana technically possible via Satluj and that too through costly lift irrigation schemes when Haryana can get water of Yamuna through natural flow. Haryana is to get 4.65 MAF water as per Yamuna settlement of 12.5.1994. Thus needs of Haryana have been adequately met and it is to get additional 1.62 MAF water on the construction of Sharda-Yamuna channel.
Yamuna basin is surplus basin whereas Ravi-Beas is a deficit basin. Supply of water to Haryana will further deplete the underground availability of water in Punjab which is already suffering because of diminishing volume of underground water. Gravity of the situation caused by the depleting ground water resources in Punjab can be figured out from the news item of the Daily Tribune, Chandigarh, dated 15.01.2004 reproduced below.
“Groundwater depletion in Punjab alrming: TERI expert”
Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service
"CHANDIGARH, JANUARY 14 : Depleting groundwater resources in Punjab and alarmingly high noise and air pollution levels in Chandigarh have been identified as the gravest environmental concerns for the two regions under the Ministry of Environment’s State of Environment (SOE) Reporting project which entered a vital phase today.
"To be completed under the complete guidance of TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), New Delhi, the coordinating institutes for nine states, including Punjab, Delhi and Chandigarh in the north, the project will comprehensively focus on the environmental concerns of the regions for the first time. Punjab and Chandigarh have been sanctioned Rs. 10 lakh to begin with.
"In Chandigarh today to introduce the project to officials of respective departments, which have to gather data on environment as required by the Ministry’s guidelines, was Mr. P.V. Sridharan, Senior Visiting Fellow with TERI. Coordinator for the Project in nine states, Mr. Sridharan conceded that the fall in levels of groundwater in Punjab was alarming. Out of 138 blocks (divided to assess groundwater level situation) in Punjab, 84 have been declared as dark, as they have exploited their groundwater. There are 16 grey blocks where utilization of groundwater is between 65 to 85 percent. Only 38 blocks are white, leaving scope for further utilization of the resource.
"Expressing concern over the intensive agricultural practices of Punjab, which have been claiming most of its groundwater base, Mr. Sridharan said the cropping pattern needs to be changed. 'Let them reduce the growth of rice, which they anyway eat less. They must also start recharging groundwater,' he said."
Ravi-Beas water ‘surplus’ was reckoned at 15.85 MAF ( cf 24.3.76 notification ) on the basis of 1921-45 flow series and at 17.17 MAF on the basis of 1921-60 series( cf 31.12.81 agreement). As per the 1921-80 flow series, surplus is calculated to be 14.374 MAF. Under the Beas Project Scheme only .90 MAF water was available to areas now forming part of Haryana. So where is the surplus water with Punjab to supply to Rajasthan or Haryana!
Carriage of Punjab waters to Rajasthan areas is sheer wastage of national funds and technical efforts. Haulage of waters to Haryana entails heavy losses because of evaporation, seepage and ecological depredation. Areas provided with water for irrigation do not turn productive and fertile when their soil structure and composition is such that it can not be made reasonably fit for economic farming.
The 1955 agreement regarding supply of 8.0 MAF water to Rajasthan was not in consideration of the needs of Punjab to safeguard its interests, it was only to furnish ground for protecting the interest of the country vis-à-vis Pakistan at the time of signing the Indus Water Treaty for division of river waters between India and Pakistan. The 1955 agreement was not ratified volitionally by the then Irrigation Minister, Punjab, Chaudhri Lahiri Singh who raised objections to the draft agreement of 1955 which was approved by him after protracted correspondence and in a bit changed form just to protect India’s interests.
The record of the decisions reached at the Inter-State ministerial meeting held on 29.01.1955, was sent to the Chief Secretary, Punjab by Shri T. Sivsankar, Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Irrigation and Power on February 1, 1955 for confirmation. Cahudhri Lahiri Singh vide his letters of February 7, 1955 and February 14, 1955 objected to the correctness of the recorded minutes and sought amendments therein. Ultimately in response to Government of India letter of August 8/9, 1955 Chaudhri Lahiri Singh confirmed the minutes/records of the 29.01.1955 meeting on September 2, 1955.
The State of Punjab questioned the legality and validity of the 1955 agreement on various grounds in its averments before the Eradi Tribunal alleging that Chaudhri Lahiri Singh confirmed the 29.01.1955 minutes of the Inter-State ministerial meeting after lot of delay on September 2, 1955 because of pressure brought to bear on him by the Central Government.