Supreme Court Orders Himachal Pradesh to Release Water to Delhi Amid Crisis

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Published on: June 07, 2024 04:02 IST

Supreme Court directed the Himachal Pradesh Government to release water to Delhi, with prior intimation to the Haryana Government. “Considering the urgency, we direct Himachal Pradesh to release the water tomorrow with prior intimation to Haryana and the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) shall measure the water for onward supply. Status report be submitted on Monday, list on Monday,” stated the bench comprising Justices PK Mishra and KV Viswanathan.

The court mandated Himachal Pradesh to transfer 137 cusecs of water from upstream, ensuring it reaches the Hathnikund barrage in Haryana. Haryana would then facilitate the transfer of this water to Delhi through the Wazirabad barrage.

The directive came in response to a writ petition filed by the Delhi government seeking immediate water release from Haryana due to the severe heatwave conditions in north India, which have led to an acute water shortage in the national capital.

Previously, the court had asked the UYRB to convene an emergent meeting of all stakeholder states on June 5 and submit the minutes and suggested steps by June 6. In the plea, Delhi, a lower riparian Union Territory, sought additional water supply due to the critical summer situation. The petition highlighted that despite requests, Haryana had not yet released the water.

During the hearing, the court questioned Haryana’s counsel on why Haryana objected to releasing water to Delhi if it was coming from Himachal. The court emphasized, “It is about a right of way (of water). Himachal is giving 150 cusecs; you (Haryana) let it pass through. We will tell the Chief Secretary if needed.”

Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi Government, proposed sending water from the Beas river through Haryana canals to Delhi. However, Haryana’s Counsel deemed this proposal infeasible. Advocate Shadan Farasat, also representing the Delhi Government, criticized Haryana for obstructing the water flow from Himachal to Delhi.

Haryana’s Counsel argued that there was no mechanism to measure and differentiate the surplus water to be released to Delhi. Adv. Farasat explained that the release would occur from Hathnikund Barrage in Haryana, with Delhi receiving it downstream via Wazirabad.

The court noted that all stakeholders at the June 5 meeting acknowledged the extreme heat situation in Delhi. While Haryana is also experiencing a water shortage due to the heatwave, the court observed that there was no evidence of an acute drinking water crisis in Haryana.

“Since Himachal has no objection, we direct that it shall transfer 137 cusecs from upstream so water reaches Hathnikund barrage and reaches Delhi through Wazirabad. As and when the surplus water is released by Himachal Pradesh with prior intimation, Haryana shall facilitate the flow of water from Hathnikund to Wazirabad so it reaches Delhi without obstruction, ensuring residents get drinking water,” the court said.

The court also emphasized the need to avoid water wastage amid Delhi’s acute water shortage and recommended measures suggested by the UYRB:

a. Separating commercial water supply from domestic water supply and curtailing such use during crisis periods, particularly for industrial and recreational purposes.
b. Using recycled water for secondary uses such as gardening and car washing.
c. Improving efficiency in water distribution and usage.
d. Lining raw water conveyance channels for long-distance water transfer, including using closed conduits where feasible to reduce conveyance losses, particularly for the Delhi Branch/Delhi Sub Branch.

The matter is scheduled for further hearing on Monday (June 10), with a directive for Himachal Pradesh to release the water on Friday and for UYRB to measure the water for onward supply to Delhi. The status report is to be submitted on Monday.


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