CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has convened an all-party meeting on January 23 to evolve a comprehensive strategy to tackle the critical water situation in the state.
Intervening in a discussion on 'The Punjab Water Resources (Management and Regulation) Bill 2020', introduced by his government, Singh said invitations for the meeting have already been sent out.
All matters related to water issues, including the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL) issue, poor quality of groundwater and pollution caused by industrial and domestic waste, would be discussed during the meeting in a bid to evolve consensus and chalk out a detailed strategy to address these problems.
The Bill introduced by Irrigation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria was later passed by the House unanimously, paving the way for creation of Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority to manage critical water resources in the state.
Both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supported the Bill while expressing concern over scarce water resources and depleting groundwater table in the state.
In response to issues raised by the Leader of the Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema, the chief minister flayed the Opposition for criticising his government on the issue, while themselves failing to help tackle the problem.
Pointing out that he and his colleagues have already given up power subsidy for tubewells, Singh challenged Opposition leaders to show if any of them had heeded to his appeal and done the same.
The appeal, he said, was aimed at ensuring judicious use of groundwater and inculcating the habit of water-saving.
The depleting groundwater table and growing pollution of river water are "serious issues", the chief minister said while expressing his government's commitment to resolving the problem which was particularly acute in districts of southern Punjab such as Muktsar, leading to heavy incidence of cancer.
Citing his visit to Israel to explore ways and means to tackle the problem of water scarcity, the chief minister said Israel was also facing acute crisis and facing exhaustion of its water resources in the next 15 years.
However, Israel has a vast sea in its vicinity from where they could cater to their country's water requirement after desalinating the seawater, he noted.
Unfortunately, Punjab did not have the option and should risk overexploiting its water resources only if it was prepared to become a desert in the coming years.
The chief minister told the House that his government had signed an agreement with the National Water Company of Israel M/s Mekorot for formulation a Water Conservation and Management Master Plan (WCMMP) for conservation and management of water resources in the state.
The Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority, provided by the Bill will be responsible for management and conversion of water resources of the state in a judicious, equitable and sustainable manner.