Water Crisis: SC to hear Delhi govt plea on June 3 seeking direction to Haryana to release surplus water

- June 1, 2024
| By : Patriot Bureau |

The plea filed by Delhi's Water Minister has made the Centre, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh government parties to the petition, saying that access to water is essential for survival and one of the basic human rights

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear on Monday a plea from the Delhi government seeking a directive for Haryana to release surplus water provided by Himachal Pradesh to the national capital to alleviate its ongoing water crisis.

According to the cause list of the apex court, a vacation bench comprising Justices P K Mishra and K V Viswanathan is likely to hear the matter.

The plea, filed by Delhi’s Water Minister Atishi, names the Centre, the BJP-governed Haryana, and the Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh as parties to the petition, emphasizing that access to water is essential for survival and a basic human right.

Highlighting the acute heatwave and red alert conditions in Delhi, with temperatures soaring to a record-breaking 52.3 degrees Celsius (in one station), the petition stated: “This unprecedented surge in temperature has led to an extraordinary and excessive demand for water, which is not being met by supply from neighbouring states, precipitating a full-fledged water and sanitation crisis.”

The plea explained that due to increased demand, the water levels at the Wazirabad barrage have been critically reduced, putting the health and well-being of Delhi’s 25 million residents at grave risk.

“The Government of NCT of Delhi has taken all administrative measures to ensure optimisation, rationing, and targeted supply of water in the national capital; yet, the shortage of water remains acute and it is clear, by all indicators, that the NCT of Delhi is in dire need of additional water,” it maintained.

The petition highlighted Delhi’s arrangement with Himachal Pradesh, which has agreed to share its surplus water with Delhi. However, since Himachal Pradesh does not share a physical boundary with Delhi, this water must be released through the Wazirabad barrage, located in Haryana.

“Therefore, Respondent No 1’s (Haryana’s) facilitation and cooperation, which is not being provided as on date, is imperative. It is also necessary to point out that, presently, the water levels in the Sonia Vihar and Bhagirathi barrages, which constitute the other primary sources of water for the NCT of Delhi, are operating at their optimum level and meet the stipulated standards. Therefore, any increase in water supply can only be considered at the Wazirabad barrage,” it added.

“For the last few days, there has been a drastic dip in the water levels at the Wazirabad barrage as Haryana is not releasing the required amount of water in the Yamuna… This has resulted in a massive crisis of water…,” Delhi minister Atishi said.

Also Read: ‘Shouldn’t we come together?’: Atishi appeals to Haryana, UP govts to release spare water to Delhi

In response, Haryana irrigation and water resources minister Abhe Singh Yadav said 1,049 cusecs of water was being supplied to the national capital per day from Munak headworks through carried lined channel (CLC) and Delhi branch. “This is 11 cusecs per day more than the 939 cusecs per day determined by the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) after accounting for route losses… the state government is supplying more than Delhi’s actual water share at Delhi contact point, Bawana,” Haryana officials said, blaming the depletion of water at Wazirabad on “internal mismanagement”.

In recent days, the Delhi Jal Board has supplied far lower than its target of 1,000 million gallons a day (MGD); for instance, on May 27, it dispatched 966 MGD. According to the latest Delhi Economic Survey, the capital needs roughly 1,290 MGD.

The Delhi government stated it has already raised the issue of the unrelenting heat and the consequent water crisis in the national capital with the Haryana government and has requested the latter to release the surplus water in the Wazirabad barrage.

“However, the State of Haryana is yet to accede to such a request. Be that as it may, by way of the instant petition, the Petitioner-Government does not intend to shift the blame on the State of Haryana or any other state, and only prays for an immediate resolution of the ongoing water crisis in the national capital through the release of the surplus water — including but not limited to surplus water being provided by the State of Himachal Pradesh in the Wazirabad barrage, by the State of Haryana,” stated the plea.

The petition clarified that the Delhi government does not intend to set a precedent that would require any state government in the future to provide the nation’s capital with an increased volume of water by pleading for the release of excess water.

“The petitioner seeks this surplus release of water by the State of Haryana as a one-time solution to redress the present emergency and resolve the ongoing water crisis in the NCT of Delhi,” said the Arvind Kejriwal government in the top court.

Citing a 1996 Supreme Court order (Delhi Water Supply & Sewage Disposal Undertaking vs. State of Haryana), which directed Haryana to ensure water supply through the Yamuna River during a similar crisis, the Delhi government argued that the present situation is much more severe and urgent. The plea urged the Court to intervene in the public interest to prevent a severe health crisis.

The petition emphasized that access to water is a fundamental human right and essential for sustaining life. “Access to water forms an essential component of the guarantee of dignity and quality of life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The current water crisis violates this right, leaving the residents of the NCT of Delhi without adequate clean drinking water,” the Delhi government stated.

The Delhi government also informed the Court that it has cracked down on water wastage and illegal connections by imposing fines and deploying teams to enforce compliance. Despite these efforts, the crisis persists, necessitating the Supreme Court’s intervention, it added.

The petition concluded with a request for the Supreme Court to direct Haryana to immediately and continuously release water at the Wazirabad barrage, including surplus water from Himachal Pradesh. The government emphasised that this request is a stop-gap measure to address the current crisis until the monsoon arrives and the situation normalises, underscoring the critical need for cooperation between states to ensure the fundamental rights of citizens are upheld, particularly during times of crisis.

(With inputs from PTI)