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Drought & Deluge: Eastern India Faces Severe Floods While Agricultural States Bicker Over Water


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New Delhi (Sputnik): The Indian states of Haryana and Punjab are the “breadbasket” of India and were the centre of the green revolution in the country. While the former is the 4th largest producer of wheat and sixth in terms of food grains, the latter contributes 13-14 percent to the nation’s total grain production.

While some Indian states are dealing with floods that have resulted in harrowing death tolls and displacement, agricultural belt states such as Punjab and Haryana are facing an acute drought as they are running out of water altogether.

Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farm activist tells Sputnik, there’s no water for farmers as 80 percent of the groundwater in the state is overexploited due to wheat and rice paddies consuming the liquid.

“The main problem is that Punjab does not have excess water to release. When the river water sharing agreement was signed between Punjab and Haryana, the waterflow was 17.17 MAF (million acre feet). In 2011, the central water commission estimated the flow at 13.04 MAF. Now that the water flow has decreased, how can we release more water to Haryana”, Mann explained.

​The river dispute between the agricultural states dates back to when Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966. To resolve the dispute, a Sutlej-Yamuna link canal was proposed to allow Haryana to draw its share of water from the Ravi and Beas rivers. However, the latter terminated the agreement unilaterally in 2004.

In a meeting to resolve the water dispute on Wednesday, Punjab chief Amarinder Singh stated that the state would burn if forced to share water with Haryana. The meeting took place as per a Supreme Court direction to the federal government to mediate the issue.

A US-based research group conducting a study on sustainability has revealed that these states, as well as Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are in particular danger of exhausting water their supplies.

Talking about experts’ predictions that the agriculturally rich state of Punjab will turn into a desert in the next seven years, Balbir Singh Rajewal, BKU leader, tells Sputnik that farmers have always been a target when it comes to the water crisis.

“Farmers are often blamed for water shortages and wastage on paddy crops. I have demanded that a study be conducted on consumption of water by various sectors in the state to clarify the usage by each”, Rajewal said.

When Pakistan Enters Fray

As per a World Bank-brokered treaty, India and Pakistan share water from six rivers that make up the Indus river system. The pact allows the former to control water from eastern rivers – the Beas, the Ravi, and the Sutlej, and gives the latter the other three – the Indus, the Chenab, and the Jhelum.

However, a growing resentment prevails among farmers from these states as they allege that Pakistan continues to receive the country’s share of water from these rivers.

They questioned water resource minister Nitin Gadkari’s promise in 2019, when he assured that the government would stop the flow of water from eastern rivers to Pakistan and divert it to Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.  

​”A lot of water from our share of rivers still goes to Pakistan, in contrast to the agreement. The central water commission calculated the amount our share of water from river Rabi, sent to Pakistan, to be at 0.58 MAF”, Mann stated.

Flood Fury

While agricultural states face water shortages, monsoon-induced floods have swamped large parts eastern India. States like Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, and now Karnataka and Kerala are facing a flood-like situation.

More than a dozen have been killed, hundreds have been displaced and injured in the floods and rainfall-induced accidents such as landslides. In Bihar alone, more than 6 million people have been affected by the floods.

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