CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has convened an all-party meeting on January 23 to evolve a comprehensive strategy to tackle the critical water situation in the light of the fast-depleting water resources in the state.The Chief Minister disclosed this in the Vidhan Sabha on Friday, on the second day of the 2-day special session of the House. He was intervening in a discussion on `The Punjab Water Resources (Management and Regulation) Bill 2020’, introduced by his government.
Invitations for the meeting had already been sent out, he disclosed, adding that all matters related to water issues in the state, including the SYL issue, poor quality of ground water and pollution caused by industrial and domestic waste, would also be thoroughly discussed during the all party meeting, in a bid to evolve consensus to chalk out a detailed strategy to address these problems.
The Bill, introduced by Irrigation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, was later passed by the House unanimously, thus paving the way for the creation of Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority to manage the critical water resource in the state. Both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supported the Bill, expressing grave concern over the scarce water resources and the depleting ground water table in the state.
During his intervention, in response to certain issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, the Chief Minister flayed the Opposition for their constant criticism of his government on the issue, while themselves failing to contributing in any way to tackling the problem.
Pointing out that he and his colleagues had already given up power subsidy for tubewells, Captain Amarinder challenged Opposition leaders to show if any of them had heeded his appeal, yet, to do the same. The appeal, he said, was aimed at ensuring judicious use of groundwater and inculcating the habit of water saving.
Describing the depleting ground water table, and the growing pollution of river water, as serious issues, the Chief Minister reiterated his government’s commitment to resolving the problem, which was particularly acute in the districts of southern Punjab, such as Sri Muktsar Sahib, leading to heavy incidence of cancer.
Citing his visit to Israel to explore ways and means to tackle the problem of water scarcity, the Chief Minister said that the West Asian country was also facing acute crisis and facing exhaustion of its water resources in the next 15 years. He, however, said that Israel had a vast sea in its vicinity , from where they could cater to their country’s water requirement after desalinating the sea water.
Unfortunately, Punjab did not have the option and could risk overexploitation of its water resources only if it was prepared to become a desert in the coming years.The Chief Minister apprised the House that his government had already signed an agreement with National Water Company of Israel M/s Mekorot for formulation a Water Conservation and Management Master Plan (WCMMP) for conservation and management of water resources in the state.
The Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority, provided by the Bill, will consist of a Chairman and two other members to be appointed by the Government. The Authority will be responsible for management and conversion of water resources of the state in a judicious, equitable and sustainable manner, and will be empowered to take all such measures as it deems necessary or expedient for this purpose.
The authority will also be empowered to issue directions and guidelines for the conservation and management of the water resources, besides issuing tariff orders specifying the charges to be imposed by entities supplying water for drinking domestic, commercial or industrial use.
The Bill also proposes the constitution of an Advisory Committee on Water Resources, to be notified by the Government. It will consist of experts and ex-officio members from various government departments, to advise the authority. The authority may also engage experts on its own.
The authority shall have, and maintain, a separate fund, to be called the Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority Fund, in which the grants/loans would be credited by the Punjab Government. The Bill also proposes to empower the Government to issue to the Authority general or specific directions in writing, in the matters of policy involving public interest, and the Authority shall be bound to follow and act upon such directions. Tariff fixation would be done by the Authority as per the policy prescribed by the Government.