Following intervention by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Punjab and Haryana on Friday agreed to try and find a mutually agreeable solution to the contentious Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal issue through dialogue.

Speaking at the 28th meeting of the Northern Zonal Council (NZC) here, its chair Rajnath Singh suggested that the Chief Ministers and Chief Secretaries of both the states sit and discuss the issue threadbare to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.

The Home Minister called for marathon discussions between both states to resolve the SYL issue.

“… efforts should first be made to find a solution through marathon meetings, failing which the matter should be left to the courts to decide,” the Union Minister said at the NZC meeting.

In response, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh suggested that the Water Resources Ministry convene such a meeting at the earliest to take the issue forward.

The NZC comprises Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Chandigarh Union Territory. The last council meeting was held in New Delhi on April 25, 2015.

Addressing Friday’s meeting, Amarinder Singh pushed for SYL dispute resolution through consensus, while calling for coordination by the states concerned with the Centre to find a feasible solution to ensuring optimal utilisation of river waters based on internationally accepted riparian principles.

The Supreme Court is hearing the SYL matter as the Punjab government refused to implement an apex court verdict — delivered on November 10, 2016, on a presidential reference — to allow the SYL canal construction to share river waters with Haryana.

The Punjab government has maintained it has no water to spare for Haryana.

Amarinder Singh said an estimated 10 lakh acres of land in southern Punjab is likely to go dry if the SYL canal is constructed and the region, which earlier saw the emergence of Maoism, could again become a hotbed of terrorism, triggering a national problem.

“Though Haryana had less land, it was given more water at the time of Punjab’s reorganisation (in 1966),” said Amarinder Singh, pointing out that Punjab did not get any share in the Yamuna water.

The Punjab Chief Minister reiterated his demand for “re-assessment and re-determination of the availability of surface waters in the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers”.

His Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar said his government too is willing to work towards an amicable settlement to every issue, but laid emphasis on honouring agreements arrived at in the past.

“We will never hesitate to take legal recourse in our determination to safeguard our interests and to protect the rights of the state’s residents,” Khattar said.

“Haryana is a water-stressed state, as availability of water is only 14.7 Million Acre Feet (MAF) against a demand of 36.0 MAF.

“We have to give, out of our own share in the Yamuna waters, extra water to Delhi in compliance with an apex court order, even as Punjab is not delivering Haryana’s full share of the Ravi-Beas waters,” the Haryana Chief Minister said.

Khattar said it was a matter of national concern that even after signing of the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, more than three MAF water is allowed to flow into Pakistan.