Water cess does not violate the provision of inter state treaties Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister stated in assembly on Thursday that levying of water cess on the power projects does not violate any interstate treaties and does not affect the release of water to border states. This was stated by the Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu while making a suo moto statement after the question hours in the state assembly about  a clarification on the matter raised by the Government of Punjab and Haryana about the water cess. 

Mr Sukhu said that Water Cess on Hydro Power Generation by the government in the state has been implemented and it does not violate any kind of inter-state treaties,  nor violated any provisions of Indus water treaty. The assertion made by the Punjab and Haryana that Himachal government’s decision to impose water cess is against the Inter State River Disputes Act-1956, is not logical as it does not affect the water released to neighboring states. He added that none of the provisions of this Act violates the water rights of neighboring states and imposing water cess on power generation is under the jurisdiction of the state.

He informed that about 45000 hectare land of the state is submerged by the reservoirs of three projects of BBMB in the state and state of Himachal Pradesh does not have any right over the water from the reservoirs created by these projects, but the state was affected by an adverse environmental impact of these reservoirs.  ”The cess is levied on water used by established hydropower projects and not on water flowing across neighboring state borders.” he asserted. 

He said that objections made by the neighboring states are not logical because state is not the first state in the country to impose a cess on the water used for the projects as prior to this, Water Cess Act has been passed by Uttarakhand ( 2013) and Jammu and Kashmir( 2010). Chief Minsiter who hold the portfolio of finance justified state action to levy water cess on the power project as additional resource of revenue generation and in case of limited sources of income with the hill states, the state has every right to increase its sources of income.  On this pattern, other neighboring states like Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir have already implemented Water Cess Act.  From which the these states are already getting revenue generation , so it is wrong to say that the state does not have the right to impose Water Cess on its water sources.  

He further stated in the house that as per the constitutional provision, water is a state subject and the state has rights over its water resources.  Further, Himachal Pradesh recognizes the Indus Water Treaty, 1960 and the Himachal Pradesh Water Cess on Hydro Electricity Generation Act, 2023 promulgated by the Government of Himachal Pradesh does not violate any provision of the said treaty.  Because imposing water cess neither affects the release of water to the neighboring states nor does it change the flow pattern of the rivers.Therefore, this Ordinance does not infringe any coastal rights of the State of Punjab. 

 Further, it is pertinent to submit that any provision of the Himachal Pradesh Water Cess on Hydro Electricity Generation Act, 2023 is repugnant to or in violation of the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956 and does not prevent the State from levying water cess on electricity generation . There is no restriction on the use of water and levy of water cess under section 7 of this Act. Section 7 of the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956 makes this provision. 

 As far as the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) is concerned, it was set up by the Ministry of Power in accordance with the provisions of the Punjab Reorganization Act, 1966 to administer, maintain and operate the Bhakra Nangal Project, which is a joint venture. It is a state undertaking of Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Chandigarh, therefore the management of BBMB is not controlled by the states of Punjab and Haryana alone. Therefore, the burden of water cess levied by the Government of Himachal Pradesh on the projects of BBMB would be distributed equally among the five states including Himachal Pradesh. 

 Water Cess has already been imposed by various State Governments like Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir Government. On the same lines, the Government of Himachal Pradesh has set up various power generation agencies to increase the revenue of the state.Himachal has been facing for decades, be it local climate change, adverse changes in agriculture and horticulture, facing health related problems, social and economic changes, all these changes have affected the water bodies of these projects has badly affected human life. It is ironic that today when hydropower projects are built, to compensate for all these adverse effects, ESIA (Environmental Social Impact Assessment) environmental and social effects are assessed and for this ESMP (Environmental Social Management Plan) environment, social management plan is approved. 

 After that it is implemented and work is done for the upliftment of the local area and for the environment and social security. It is noteworthy that B.B.M.B. None of the projects have taken the necessary steps to address all these issues and the local population has been left to fend for themselves. These reservoirs have not only swallowed agricultural and horticultural land, obstructed the means of transport, water sources have been submerged, religious places and cremation grounds have been submerged, but the rehabilitation of the displaced people who were destroyed 50-60 years ago could not be completed.  The statement of the Panjab government that this step of the Himachal government is illegal is not logical because the state government has imposed water cess on the use of water within the state and it has every right to levy a cess on the use of water because water is a state subject. Mr Sukhu assured the house and neighboring state that this Ordinance or Act in no way violates the provisions of the Inter State River Dispute Act 1956 or will not affect any legitimate right of other states under any other MoU .

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