Apex court to hear Punjab-Haryana water dispute in September

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Wednesday slated for Sep 7 the final hearing of a dispute in which Punjab has objected to Haryana’s plan to perforate the Bhakhra canal to feed a water channel for irrigation.

A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice B.S. Chauhan acceded to the Punjab government’s request that the matter should be listed for the final hearing now.

The bench, while deferring the hearing on the matter, brushed aside the request of the Haryana government that the apex court should hear the matter Wednesday itself.

Haryana has built a 20-km water channel off the Bhakhra canal to irrigate its farmland and wants to perforate the Bhakhra main line canal near Ajimgarh village in Kaithal district to draw water for the channel.

The channel, running west to east and adjoining the territory of Punjab, is bound by a 10.2-foot-high embankment for its first 11 kilometres that tapers to a 7-foot height along its subsequent run.

Punjab had moved the apex court in 2007, contending that the construction of the embankment for the water channel would obstruct the free flow of surface water from north to south and would result in flooding its territory.

Punjab has also contended that the deluge in turn would result in submergence of 20,756 acres of its land in 32 villages and would force displacement of over 100,000 people in the state.

Punjab has argued that the project would ruin the existing irrigation system as well as communication system in the state and termed the construction of the water channel as “violation of our territorial rights” and “an extra-territorial nuisance”.

It has contended that the farmland, which Haryana proposes to irrigate with the channel, is not part of the areas identified for irrigation in the Bhakhra Nangal agreement of 1959.

The Rajasthan government too has joined the issue at the apex court, objecting to the Haryana government’s plan.

It has pointed out that its share of water to the tune of 0.9 cusec (cubic foot per second) has already shrunk to 0.7 cusec during the peak agricultural season, and the water channel would mean a further cut.

Given the opposition from the two neighbouring states, the Supreme Court had Aug 17, 2007, stopped Haryana from perforating the canal.


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