Summer's here

Punjab and Rajasthan at court war over water

 
Published: Wednesday 15 June 2005

A site of the water fight:Rop theSupreme Court (sc), on May 10, 2005, stayed the Rajasthan High Court's (hc's) May 2, 2005 order, which directed the Punjab government to hand over the maintenance of three barrages (Ropar, Harike and Ferozepur) of the Bhakra and Beas projects to the Bhakra Beas Management Board (bbmb), a Union government body. The hc directive was given in response to a public interest litigation (pil) filed by one D M Singhvi, an agriculturalist staying in Rajasthan. The sc also issued notices to the Union government, bbmb, Rajasthan government and Singhvi.

bbmb is an autonomous body of the Union government that regulates the supply of water from Satluj, Ravi and Beas rivers to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. According to its water-sharing agreement with Punjab, Rajasthan is entitled to 11,000 cusecs water per day. But Punjab passed a legislation in 2004, unilaterally terminating its water-sharing pacts with Rajasthan and Haryana

"Punjab does not have any right to keep control of head-works and to flout the mandate of Section 79 [of the Punjab Re-Organisation Act, 1966]. It is only the bbmb that is entitled to keep administration and control of head-works in order to safeguard the fundamental right to water of the petitioner and other farmers of Rajasthan," the hc had ruled. It also directed the Union government to ensure compliance with the order within 30 days.

The Punjab government filed a special leave petition (slp) in the sc against the hc order. It said it would face irreparable loss and injury if the order was not stayed. "The headworks...till date have been effectively managed by the state...," the slp claimed. Punjab argued that the hc order was passed on an individual's petition, without the filing of any affidavit by the Union and the Rajasthan governments. Rajasthan government counsel C S Vaidyanathan demanded the adjournment of the hearing for at least two days to enable him to file a counter-affidavit. But the court didn't grant this. The next hearing will take place after the summer break.

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