SC Raps Himachal Pradesh for U-Turn on Water Supply to Delhi

Delhi Water Crisis: The Delhi government is requesting a directive to Haryana to release excess water supplied by Himachal Pradesh in court.
SC Raps Himachal Pradesh for U-Turn on Water Supply to Delhi

The Supreme Court’s ongoing deliberations over Delhi’s escalating water crisis took an unexpected turn when Himachal Pradesh, after previously stating it had released water for Delhi, declared it had no surplus water to supply to the national capital. The supply was to be routed through Haryana.

As Delhi’s residents grapple with the dual challenges of intense heat and a water shortage, the Supreme Court ordered the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of surplus water to the national capital. The court also instructed Haryana to facilitate the water’s flow. The court emphasized that the scarcity of drinkable water in Delhi has evolved into an “existential problem”.

Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Minister, Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, assured the media yesterday that the state had indeed released water. “We have released water. We have asked the lawyers to inform the Supreme Court about this. We are ready to give the water that we have released. There is no doubt about it,” he said.

However, in a surprising reversal today, the counsel for the Himachal government informed the court that the 137 cusecs of water was not surplus but was used “after irrigation and part of the natural flow of the river.” He admitted, “We were not able to explain it properly earlier. Our correct statement may come on record. We may have made a mistake earlier but I have been informed. I will correct and withdraw the statement given earlier that the flow was obstructed.”

The court issued a stern warning in response, stating, “We can prosecute you for contempt and summon your Chief Secretary.” The lawyer for the Himachal government apologized and promised to file an affidavit to retract their previous statement.

The court has tasked the Upper Yamuna River Board with finding a solution to this issue. The board had previously stated that Himachal Pradesh should demonstrate that it is releasing 137 cusecs of unused water for Delhi, following the court’s decision on June 6.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, the Board referenced a letter from Himachal Pradesh to Haryana. The letter stated that the unused water from its share is already flowing uninterrupted into the Hathinikund Barrage, and Haryana should facilitate its release to Delhi.

The Board further clarified, “As per the above letter, the 137 cusec of unutilised water is already flowing uninterruptedly from the territory of Himachal Pradesh to Tajewala (in Haryana). It therefore emerges that Himachal Pradesh is not releasing any additional water subsequent to the order of the Supreme Court dated 06.06.2024 which could be measured by Upper Yamuna River Board.”

Residents of several areas in Delhi are suffering due to the shortage of drinking water that has made the heatwave unbearable. Amid the crisis, the activities of the tanker mafia have compounded residents’ problems. The court has pulled up the Aam Aadmi Party government over wastage of water and the tanker mafia, questioning the steps it has taken to counter these problems.

“There are visuals on every channel that the tanker mafia is working in Delhi. What measures have you taken in this regard? What measures have you taken to control water waste coming through the two barrages if this is a recurring problem? Please show us what action or FIR have you lodged against tanker mafias,” the bench said.

Delhi’s water minister, Atishi, has accused government officials of reducing the number of Delhi Jal Board water tankers without her knowledge, alleging this has aided the tanker mafia. She has also written to Lieutenant Governor VK Saxena, seeking an inquiry into the alleged collusion between senior officials and the tanker mafia.