Supreme Court Intervenes to Quench Delhi’s Thirst Amid Heatwave

Mainstream
06-Jun-2024
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On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of water to alleviate the severe water shortage in Delhi, exacerbated by the ongoing heatwave in northern India. This order came in response to the Delhi government's urgent plea for additional water as temperatures soar past 50 degrees Celsius.

A Vacation Bench comprising Justices Prashant Kumar Mishra and KV Viswanathan underscored the urgency of the situation, directing Himachal Pradesh to release the water by Friday. The court also emphasized that Haryana must ensure the unobstructed flow of this water to Delhi.

“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,” the court stated. “As and when the surplus water is released by the State of Himachal Pradesh with prior intimation, the State of Haryana shall facilitate the flow of water from Hathnikund to Wazirabad so it reaches Delhi without obstruction so the residents get drinking water.”

The court's directive also included a mandate for the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) to measure the water flow to ensure accurate distribution. “Considering the urgency, we direct Himachal Pradesh to release the water tomorrow with prior intimation to Haryana and UYRB shall measure the water for onward supply. Status report be submitted on Monday, list on Monday,” the Bench ordered.

The court was addressing the Delhi government's petition seeking directives for Haryana to facilitate the water supply from Himachal Pradesh. Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Delhi government, highlighted that while Himachal Pradesh had expressed readiness to provide water, Haryana had not responded positively.

“Himachal is showing grace and humility,” Singhvi noted, stressing that the surplus water from the Beas River could be channeled through Haryana’s canals to reach Delhi. Justice Viswanathan pointed out the recommendation’s basis from the UYRB, clarifying, “The Court is passing orders on the report, not the petition.” Despite Haryana's counsel arguing the proposal’s feasibility, no specific objections were detailed.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee, appearing for the Union Jal Shakti Ministry, mentioned, “There is no way to measure and differentiate the surplus water is their (Haryana’s) contention.” Singhvi countered, comparing water to money in its fungibility, while Advocate Shadan Farasat (also representing Delhi) noted that the release would occur upstream, ensuring Delhi receives the water downstream via Wazirabad.

The Bench had previously directed the Central government to convene a meeting of all stakeholders, including the UYRB, to address Delhi's water demands. Despite ongoing disputes, the Supreme Court’s order now mandates cooperation from Haryana, ensuring the crucial water supply reaches Delhi promptly.

Author: Anushka Taraniya

News writer