Delhi water crisis: SC directs Himachal to release excess water, asks Haryana to facilitate flow

The apex court also made it clear that there should be no wastage of water by the Delhi government.
The Supreme Court of India premises in New Delhi.
The Supreme Court of India premises in New Delhi.FILE Photo | ANI

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Himachal Pradesh government to release 137 cusecs of surplus water available with it for Delhi, which is grappling with water crisis.

"There should be no politics over water," a two-judge vacation bench of the top court, led by Justice P K Mishra and Justice K V Viswanathan noted that the Himachal Pradesh government is willing to release 137 cusecs of surplus water available with it for Delhi.

"Keeping in view the urgency in the case, we direct Himachal Pradesh to release 137 cusecs water from upstream so water reaches Hathnikund barrage and reaches Delhi through Wazirabad. The surplus water shall be released by State of Himachal Pradesh tomorrow 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 bench said in its order on Thursday.

While recording the submissions of the HP govt that it has agreed for the surplus release, the top court today fixed the matter for further hearing to June 10, Monday.

Seeking a status report in this regard by Monday, the top court also made it clear in its order that the Haryana govt should not obstruct the onward flow of water to Delhi from Himachal but should instead facilitate the same to ensure flow of water to Delhi.

Senior lawyer, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Delhi government, argued before the top court that Himachal Pradesh government had no objection but that there was no response from Haryana government. Based on a UYRB (Upper Yamuna River Board) report, he said that water from Beas river can be sent to Delhi through canals in Haryana. "Himachal is showing grace and humility, but Haryana is not," he said.

Opposing the submissions of Singhvi, the Haryana govt, however, said that the proposal was not feasible.

Justice Viswanathan pointed out that the recommendation to release water was UYRB's and stated that the Court was passing orders on the report, and not on the petition.

Water Minister of Delhi, Atishi had filed the petition before the top court saying that the filing of “this petition has been necessitated by an acute heat wave and an issuance of a red alert in the NCT, with temperatures soaring to a record-breaking high of 52.9 degrees Celsius."

Earlier on June 01, the Supreme Court had asked the Upper Yamuna River Board to convene an emergency meeting of all the concerned stakeholder states to resolve the water crisis faced by the residents of Delhi, amidst a sweltering heatwave leading to water shortage in the National Capital.

The Supreme Court of India premises in New Delhi.
Struggles and long queues: Delhi's residents battle for water

The Delhi government's plea sought direction to Haryana and Himachal Pradesh govt for supplying more water to the national capital keeping in view the severe water woes faced by it.

The Delhi govt had made the Centre, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh as parties to the case filed by it in the top court. As per many reports, a lot of areas in Delhi including Chanakyapuri's Sanjay Camp, Geeta colony in East Delhi, Patel Nagar, various North and South Delhi parts, Mehrauli and Chhatarpur and others facing acute water shortages. Many people in these areas failed to get even the minimum water, although they stood in queue to get at least a bucket of water. In its petition, Delhi government said that the need for water for Delhi people has increased amid sweltering heat and a severe heat wave.

"Delhi's need for water has increased in the scorching heat. It is everyone's responsibility to fulfil the needs of the country's capital," the petition said.

Even the Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government had ordered to impose fine of 2,000 on wastage of water and formed 200 teams to enforce the penalty on those who allegedly wastage water.

The temperatures in Delhi almost touched 50 degrees Celsius and people are unable to get any relief so far, as the South West monsoon is to hit Delhi not likely before June 20-25.

"Access to water is one of basic human rights; water essential for sustenance, access to water also forms essential component of guarantee of dignity and quality of life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution," the plea said.

It also added that unprecedented surge in temperature has triggered extraordinary and excessive demand for water, which is not being met by supply from neighboring states, thereby precipitating a full-fledged water and sanitation crisis.

Since Himachal Pradesh does not share a physical boundary with Delhi, this water needs to be released to national capital through Wazirabad barrage, which is located in Delhi, the AAP govt said in its petition.

The Supreme Court of India premises in New Delhi.
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“Access to water is one of the basic human rights of an individual. Not only is water essential for sustenance, but access to water also forms an essential component of the guarantee of dignity and a quality of life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. The current water crisis, which may only get worse given peak summers and ongoing water shortage, violates the right to a dignified and quality life of the people of the NCT of Delhi, who are unable to access even adequate clean drinking water,” the Delhi government said in its petition before the Supreme Court.

“This unprecedented surge in temperature, during the dry, arid summer, has triggered an extraordinary and excessive demand for water, which is not being met by supply from the neighboring states, thereby precipitating a full-fledged water and sanitation crisis,” the plea said.

The Kejriwal government further argued in its petition before the top court that “Due to this increased demand, which will continue till the end of June, which is when the monsoon begins in the NCT, the water levels of the Wazirabad barrage have been critically reduced, which has resulted in water shortage, putting the health and well-being of the 25 million residents of the NCT of Delhi at grave risk.”

The plea said that "the petitioner (Delhi) Govt has already devised a solution to meet the increased demand for water in the national capital — the State of Himachal Pradesh, Respondent No. 2, has agreed to share its surplus water with Delhi, as per a pre-existing MOU signed in 2019."

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