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SC asks Himachal to release surplus water to Delhi

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 06, 2024 17:07 IST
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The acute shortage of drinking water has become an 'existential problem' in Delhi, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday and directed the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of surplus water to the national capital on Friday and Haryana to facilitate its flow.

IMAGE: People collect drinking water from a tanker as they face water scarcity on a hot summer day, in New Delhi. Photograph: ANI Photo

The apex court also said there should be no politics over water.

A vacation bench of Justices P K Mishra and K V Viswanathan noted that the Himachal Pradesh government is willing to release 137 cusecs of surplus water available with it for Delhi.


One cusec (cubic foot per second) is equal to 28.317 litres of liquid flow every second.

"Since Himachal Pradesh has no objection and is ready and willing to release the surplus water available with it, we direct that Himachal Pradesh shall release 137 cusecs of surplus water available with it from the upstream so that the water reaches Hathnikund barrage and reaches Delhi through Wazirabad," the bench said.

Considering the urgency in the matter, the bench directed Himachal Pradesh to release the water on June 7 with prior intimation to Haryana.

It said the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) shall measure the excess water which comes to Hathnikund for its onward supply to Wazirabad and Delhi.

"As and when the surplus water is released with prior information to Haryana by the state of Himachal Pradesh, the state of Haryana shall facilitate the flow of surplus water so released by Himachal Pradesh to Hathnikund and to Wazirabad so that it reaches Delhi uninterruptedly and is made available for the citizens of Delhi for drinking water," the bench ordered.

"A status report be submitted before this court on Monday (June 10)," it said.

It also asked the Delhi government to ensure water received for the parched national capital is not wasted.

The apex court said the Delhi government and the respondents, including Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, shall file their compliance affidavits by Monday.

The bench, which was hearing a plea filed by the Delhi government seeking a direction to Haryana to release the surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to the national capital to mitigate its ongoing water crisis, posted the matter for further hearing on June 10.

While hearing the matter on June 3, the apex court had asked for an emergent meeting of the UYRB on June 5 to address the issue.

The UYRB was set up in 1995 with one of its main functions being to regulate the allocation of available flows amongst the beneficiary states and also monitor and review the progress of all projects up to and including Okhla barrage in Delhi. The beneficiary states include Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi.

During the hearing on Thursday, the bench observed that a meeting was convened on June 5 and issues concerning water crisis faced by Delhi were discussed.

"The above discussions recorded by the board would clearly reveal that the members/stake holders participating in the meeting have not contradicted or disputed that there are extraordinary heat wave conditions in Delhi which is facing acute shortage of drinking water," the bench noted.

It said though the board recorded that Haryana was also facing similar heat wave conditions, there was no material before the court that there was acute drinking water crisis in Haryana.

It noted the board eventually recommended that to meet the drinking water requirements during the present summer season or before the onset of monsoon on June 30, the Delhi government may send a formal request to Haryana to consider releasing 150 cusecs of additional water on humanitarian grounds.

The bench said it can be concluded that the board was of the view that Delhi tentatively needed 150 cusecs of additional water to meet the demand for drinking water.

It said the counsel appearing for Himachal Pradesh has produced before it a chart which includes data of surplus water available there.

"The break-up of the surplus water available with Himachal Pradesh is provided in the document, according to which, between the period from March to June, 137 cusecs surplus water is available with Himachal Pradesh," the bench noted.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the Delhi government, said, "We requested with folded hands. Himachal Pradesh has no objection. Haryana objects. The board at the end says since Haryana objects, you (Delhi) write to Haryana. We wrote to Haryana, we have received no reply. That is the summary of whole thing."

"It is an existential problem," the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee, who was appearing for the Centre.

The ASG referred to the minutes of the meeting and said it has been noted that Haryana has indicated that similar extraordinary heat wave conditions are also prevailing there leading to excessive demand of water, both in rural and urban areas.

The bench told the counsel appearing for Haryana that the Himachal Pradesh government has acknowledged surplus water is available with them.

"Water is to come from Himachal, not from Haryana," the bench said, adding, "There is only (the question of) passage. Please do not stand on this. It is a serious problem. If we don't take cognisance, it will not be proper at all".

Singhvi said Himachal Pradesh has shown grace and magnanimity but Haryana was saying no.

"Tomorrow, there should be no politics that water is released by Himachal Pradesh and it is not supplied by Haryana," the bench said, adding, 'there should be no politics on water'.

While Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) partners Aam Aadmi Party and Congress rule Delhi and Himachal Pradesh , respectively, Haryana has a Bharatiya Janata Party government.

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