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Satluj Yamuna Link Canal or SYL as it is popularly known, is an under-construction 214-kilometer (133 mi) long canal in India to connect the Sutlej and Yamuna rivers.[2] However, the proposal met obstacles[3] and was referred to the Supreme Court of India.[2] It was defined as river water sharing between the states of Punjab and Haryana.

Proposed Canal Link - Status as in March 2016[1]
Proposed Canal Link - Status as in March 2016[1]


After the partition of India in 1947 into Pakistan and India, the Indus basin was bisected with India gaining the upper reaches of the Indus river and its tributaries while Pakistan gained the lower reaches. This led to a situation in which utilisation and development of water resources in one country would hamper the same in another. While negotiations for resolving the dispute were in progress in 1954, activities same as in India had already started in India in anticipation of a treaty. Although the issue of water of Sutlej river was resolved through the Bhakra Nangal project, the issue of surplus waters of Ravi river and Beas river excluding the pre-Partition use remained. On 29 January 1955, the states of Punjab, PEPSU, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir came to an agreement regarding the distribution of water from the rivers, with Punjab being allocated 5.9 MAF (million acre-feet) and PEPSU gaining 1.3 MAF out of the estimated 15.85 MAF of water while Rajasthan gained 8 MAF and Jammu and Kashmir gaining the remaining 0.65 MAF. With the merger of Punjab and PEPSU in 1956, the total share of Punjab became 7.2 MAF.[4][5] The Indus Water Treaty reached in 1960 allowed India unrestricted use of water from Sutlej, Ravi and Beas.[6]

The dispute regarding sharing of river water emerged after Punjab was reorganised in 1966, and the state of Haryana was created. Haryana demanded 4.8 MAF out of Punjab's total 7.2 MAF share of water from the rivers, while Punjab claimed the entire quantity belonged to it. Haryana asked the Union government to intervene as no agreement could be reached. In 1976, when the country was under an internal emergency, an executive order was issued by the Union government which allocated 3.5 MAF of water to both states while Delhi received the remaining 0.2 MAF. In order to make full use of the allocated water, a Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal was proposed. The decision was met with opposition in Punjab by Shromani Akali Dal. After coming to power in 1977, the Shiromani Akali Dal demanded that the water sharing between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan be adjudicated by Supreme Court and filed a suit against the order of the Union government.[7][4] The construction of canal was started in the same year by the Akali Dal government under Chief Minister of Punjab Prakash Singh Badal. The Haryana government led by Chaudhary Devi Lal provided Rs. 10,000,000 to the Punjab government for this purpose. The government later issued a notification to acquire land for the SYL canal.[8] The construction of the canal's portion in Haryana was completed by June 1980.[9]

After the Indian National Congress came to power in Punjab in 1980, an agreement was reached on 31 December 1981 between Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, which were all under INC rule, with Darbara Singh being the Chief Minister of Punjab and Indira Gandhi being the Prime Minister of India. Under the agreement, Punjab's share was increased to 4.22 MAF and that of Rajasthan to 8.6 MAF while the share of Haryana from the revised 17.17 MAF of water remained the same. All states withdrew their suits from the Supreme Court following the signing of agreement. On 8 April 1982, Indira Gandhi formally launched the construction of the canal at Kapoori village of Punjab in 1982. On 23 April, the Punjab government issued a white paper hailing the agreement.[10][5][4][11] Per the terms reached under Punjab accord, a tribunal was to be set up to investigate the river water claims of Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan. The Akali Dal came back to power in Punjab on 29 September 1985 and on 5 November 1985, the newly elected Punjab Legislative Assembly repudiated the 1981 agreement. The Ravi and Beas Waters Tribunal (also known as Eradi Tribunal after its chair V. Balakrishna Eradi) was constituted on 2 April 1986. On 30 January 1987, the tribunal upheld the legality of the agreements of 1955, 1976 and 1981. It also increased shares of both Punjab and Haryana, allocating them 5 MAF and 3.83 MAF respectively.[12] It also noted that while the canal's portion had been completed in Haryana, the portion in Punjab wasn't and urged that it be completed expeditiously. The Akali Dal government in Punjab under Surjit Singh Barnala started the construction of the canal.[13][14] However, it kept dithering on its completion.[15]

The construction was stopped in July 1990 after a Chief Engineer associated with its construction was shot dead by Khalistani activist Balwinder Singh Jattana.[8] The canal remained incomplete due to the dispute over the issue. In 1999, Haryana filed a suit in the Supreme Court seeking construction of the canal.[13] In 2002, the Supreme Court directed Punjab to complete the SYL canal within a year. Punjab refused to do so and petitioned for a review of the court order which was rejected. In 2004, the Supreme Court directed the Union government to get the canal completed through a central agency. The Central Public Works Department was appointed on 2 July 2004 to take over the canal work from Punjab government. However, on 12 July 2004, the Punjab Legislative Assembly passed the Punjab Termination of Agreements Act, 2004 which abrogated all its river water agreements with neighbouring states. The President of India then referred this bill to the Supreme Court in the same year.[16]

The Supreme Court began hearings on the bill by the Punjab Assembly on 7 March 2016.[17] On 15 March 2016, the Punjab Legislative Assembly unanimously passed the Punjab Satluj Yamuna Link Canal Land (Transfer of Proprietary Rights) Bill, 2016, proposing to return the land that had been taken from owners for building the SYL canal.[18] On 18 March, the Supreme Court ordered the Punjab government to maintain status quo on the land meant for construction of the canal.[19] On 10 November, the court gave its opinion that Punjab government's 2004 bill which terminated river water agreements was illegal.[20] On 15 November, the government passed an executive order, denotifying the land meant for the digging of the canal and returned it to its original owners through notification issued by Punjab's financial commissioner of revenue K.B.S. Sidhu, utilising revenue powers that rests with an IAS officer.[21] Punjab's Legislative Assembly also passed a resolution on the next day, demanding royalties for river water supplied to its non-riparian neighbors Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi.[22] All of the denotified land was returned by 20 November.[23] A status quo was however again ordered by the Supreme Court relating to the land on 30 November.[24][25]

On 22 February 2017, the Supreme Court stated that the Government of Punjab will have to abide by its order on construction of SYL canal and it will pass a decree if the governments of Punjab and Haryana failed to come to an agreement.[26] Captain Abhimanyu, the Finance Minister of Haryana, while presenting Government of Haryana's 2017-18 budget in March 2017 announced that ₹100 crore had been allocated for completion of the construction of the canal, the first time any money had been specifically set aside for it in the state government's budget.[27]

Status of the project

The canal is 85% complete with Haryana government completing its part of the canal. It has completed 92 km of the canal on its land. Haryana would benefit enormously by gaining water from Ravi-Beas from Punjab.[28] On 30 November 2016, the Supreme Court appointed the Union Home Secretary, Punjab's Chief Secretary and the Director General of Police as receivers for submitting a report on the present status of land and other properties on the canal site by 15 December.[24] The receivers submitted their reports as per schedule, stating in the reports that there was no fresh or deliberate damage to the canal.[29]

To augment nearly 100 tmcft water availability in Sutlej basin for the needs of this link canal, Lingdi Nadi (a tributary of Tso Moriri lake) waters can be diverted to the Sutlej basin by digging a 9 km long gravity canal to connect to the Pare Chu and Ungti Chu rivers.[30][31] Ungti Chu and Pare Chu rivers are tributaries of Sutlej river with its drainage area located in Ladakh. Thus water need not be spared by Punjab state for the needs of this canal.[32] Hydropower generation from the projects located on Sutlej River would also increase by the augmented water flows from Tso Moriri lake catchment area.


The akali protest over the SYL issue on 12 April 2016 in Ludhiana, whilst accusing national convenor of Aam Aadmi Party and Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal and his government of "double-speak" and "anti-Punjab stand".[33] On 11 November 2016, all Indian National Congress MLAs of the Punjab Legislative Assembly resigned[34] in protest at the Supreme Court's decision that the state's termination of the link canal was unconstitutional.[35] Aam Aadmi Party began an indefinite protest on the same day at Kapoori village, blaming both the Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress for SYL.[36] Apprehending law and order problem over the issue, the Punjab Police deployed the Rapid Action Force in parts of Punjab, sealed the border with Haryana and increased patrolling on the National Highway-1 on 12 November.[37] A Congress rally was organised on 13 November at Khuian Sarwar village. President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Amarinder Singh declared that not a single drop a water will go out of Punjab while also announcing that a Congress delegation including MPs and MLAs would meet President of India Pranab Mukherjee on the issue.[38] The delegation met the President on 17 November, urging him to form a panel to look into the SYL issue and direct the Union government to consider ground realities and water availability in the state before taking any action on advice of the Supreme Court.[39] Amarinder resigned from Lok Sabha on 23 November in protest against the issue.[40] A delegation of Punjab government's ministers met the President on 28 November, urging him not to accept any advice against the riparian water rights.[41] The Akali Dal held a rally at Moga on 8 December regarding the issue. Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal stated that the controversy had been resolved after giving back the land meant for the canal to the original owners. He also stated that Punjab didn't have a single drop of water to spare.[42]

In January 2017, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) announced that it will dig the canal itself on 23 February.[43] In response, Punjab's government heightened security along the Punjab-Haryana border. On 23 February, INLD along with its supporters entered Punjab to start the digging of the canal. More than 70 of its leaders were arrested by the Punjab Police for violating prohibitory orders.[44] Haryana claims that it is riparian state of Sutlej river as the upper reaches of Sirsa Nadi which is a tributary of Sutlej river is draining north western area of Haryana state. Rajasthan claims that it is also riparian state of Sutlej river as its northern area is part of the river basin. Irrigation experts believe that Rajasthan will lose significant chunk of its share as the Feeder canals from Harike Pattan will lose water volume due to SYL.[45]

Other alternatives projects

Sharda-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal

The Haryana government is silent on the proposed Sharda-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal about which a National Perspective Plan (NPP) was formulated by the Union. ministry of water resources development in 1980, considering large scale inter-basin water transfer proposals for transfer of water from surplus regions to deficit regions. This canal will also solve the major flood problems in Uttarakhand.

Punjab has no surplus water to give to Haryana and it should instead be given from the Sharda-Yamuna Link canal said AAP leader H S Phoolka.[46][47][48]

See also


  1. "Sutlej, Beas, Ravi and main canal network". CWC, India. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
  2. Archived 7 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  3. "Ministry of Water Resources: Rajya Sabha". Press Information Bureau. 4 March 2003. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  4. Vishwa Ballabh (2008). Governance of Water: Institutional Alternatives and Political Economy. SAGE Publications Ltd. pp. 179, 180. ISBN 9780761936077.
  5. Dodda Srinivasa Rao (1998). Inter-state Water Disputes in India: Constitutional and Statutory Provisions and Settlement Machinery. Deep and Deep Publications. pp. 149, 150, 155. ISBN 9788176291590.
  6. Vijepal Singh Mann (2003). Troubled Waters of Punjab. Allied Publishers. p. 88. ISBN 9788177643763.
  7. Ashok Swain (2016). Struggle Against the State: Social Network and Protest Mobilization in India. Routledge. pp. 60, 61. ISBN 9781317049050.
  8. Mohinder Singh (2001). "Punjab 2000: Political and Socio-economic Developments". Anamika Pub. & Distributors. p. 200. ISBN 9788186565902.
  9. "Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal issue: Field of dreams". The Indian Express. 21 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  10. Kirpal Dhillon (2006). Identity and Survival: Sikh Militancy in India 1978-1993. Penguin UK. pp. 71, 72. ISBN 9789385890383.
  11. Vandana Shiva (2016). The Violence of the Green Revolution: Third World Agriculture, Ecology, and Politics. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 157. ISBN 9780813166810.
  12. "The Ravi- Beas Water Tribunal Report (1987)" (PDF). Central Water Commission. Retrieved 15 February 2020.
  13. John R. Wood (2007). The Politics of Water Resource Development in India: The Case of Narmada. SAGE Publications India. p. 74. ISBN 9788132101321.
  14. Ramaswamy R. Iyer (2007). Towards Water Wisdom: Limits, Justice, Harmony. SAGE Publications India. p. 97. ISBN 9788178299723.
  15. Khushwant Singh (January 2006). The Illustrated History of the Sikhs. Oxford University Press. p. 253. ISBN 9780195677478.
  16. Vishwa Ballabh (2008). Governance of Water: Institutional Alternatives and Political Economy. SAGE Publications Ltd. pp. 181, 182. ISBN 9788178299877.
  17. "Supreme Court to determine legality of Punjab act terminating sharing agreements". The Indian Express. 12 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  18. "Punjab Assembly passes Bill against construction of Satluj Yamuna Link". The Indian Express. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  19. Samanwaya Rautray, Vinay Sharma (15 March 2016). "Supreme Court asks Punjab to maintain status quo over Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal". The Economic Times. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  20. Krishandas Rajgopal (10 November 2016). "Punjab law to stop sharing Ravi, Beas waters illegal: SC". The Hindu. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  21. Rohan Dua (16 November 2016). "Punjab government denotifies SYL land, again". The Times of India. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  22. Harpreet Bajwa (16 November 2016). "Now Punjab wants royalties for its river waters". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  23. "Majithia hails revenue officials for swift SYL canal land mutations". Hindustan Times. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  24. "Supreme Court orders status quo on Sutlej-Yamuna Link canal land". The Times of India. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  25. "SC re-appoints receivers, seeks status report on SYL canal". The Economic Times. 30 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  26. Amit Anand Choudhary (22 February 2017). "Sutlej Yamuna Link canal has to be constructed: SC tells Punjab govt". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  27. Ajay Sura (7 March 2017). "A first: Rs 100 crore SYL canal in Haryana budget". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  28. "SC calls Punjab govt. 2004 order unconstitutional: Sutlej Yamuna Link canal issue". TICS-IAS. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  29. "No fresh, deliberate damage to SYL canal: Centre to SC". The Tribune. 15 December 2016. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  30. "Upper Sutlej basin area (Map 13j)" (PDF). Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  31. "Upper Sutlej basin area" (PDF). Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  32. "WRIS geo-visualization map". Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  33. Raakhi jagga; Anju Agnihorti Chaba (12 April 2016). "Ludhiana: 'Focus' on Arvind Kejriwal at SAD protests". The Indian Express. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  34. Hansa Malhotra (11 November 2016). "SYL Row: Legal Team Constituted to Advice Punjab on SC Ruling". The Quint. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  35. "Inspector General of the Training and Evaluation". The Indian Express. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  36. "AAP begins indefinite protest over SYL". The Times of India. 12 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  37. Vishal Rambani (12 November 2016). "SYL protest: RAF deployed in Punjab, Haryana border sealed, vigil up on NH-1". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  38. "Captain at Congress rally: Not a single drop of water will go out of Punjab". The Indian Express. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  39. "Punjab Congress delegation meets President". Business Standard. 17 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  40. "Lok Sabha Speaker accepts resignation of Amarinder Singh". The Hindu. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  41. "SYL row: Punjab, Haryana knock at President's door". Hindustan Times. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 1 December 2016.
  42. Vikas Vasudeva (9 December 2016). "SYL canal land restored to owners: Badal". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 December 2016.
  43. "SYL canal issue: Indian National Lok Dal to hold meetings in all district headquarters". The Hindu. 7 January 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  44. Vishal Rambani, Rajesh Moudgil (24 February 2017). "SSYL march: Abhay Chautala, 73 other INLD leaders jailed". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  45. "Lower Sutlej basin area map" (PDF). Retrieved 24 February 2017.
  46. "Give water to Haryana from Sharda-Yamuna Link canal: AAP". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. 2 March 2017. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  47. Jaskaran Singh (5 April 2022). "Haryana silent on proposed Sharda-Yamuna Link, does Punjab have surplus water? | Chandigarh News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  48. Jaskaran Singh (6 April 2022). "No Talk of the Other Syl: Sharda-yamuna Link Canal | Chandigarh News - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 June 2022.

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