Opinions, Water

Hydro-terrorism by India

PAKISTAN with the passage of time is facing increased multiple challenges on different fronts. Now with changing global ecosystem and increased warming our country is also tackling the problems of growing population, water scarcity, distribution inequalities, dilapidation of ecosystem, power breakdowns and system losses. Though country has covered small steps for power generation and utilization of resources, still it has to meet the demand for water supply in all sectors including domestic use, industrial and agricultural demands and increasing requirement for irrigation. As the reports and statistics suggest that hydro-requirement for human and industrial needs will increase manifolds in coming years, effective water management is the need of the hour. World Bank in one its report mentioned that Pakistan became a water- stressed country in year 2000 where its usage became 1,700 m3 per capita per year.

After the partition of subcontinent in 1947, water also became a contentious matter between India and Pakistan. Issue between both countries originated with the rights of canal headworks which became part of India as upper riparian and used to irrigate huge area in Pakistan. After negotiations, both countries signed a treaty in 1960 with the name of Indus Water Treaty in the presence of World Bank as a guarantor which divided the rights of Indus Basin System, thus giving exclusive rights to Pakistan on western rivers.

India being lying in upper riparian area got the controls of three rivers which are Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. While Pakistan received the rights on the rivers of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. This treaty despite having cold relations between India and Pakistan is still valid and considered as a model for water disputes. Pakistan to overcome water shortage issues, opted for creation of large and small number of reservoirs in past years. But it was observed with passing years, India started violating this IWT by constructing dams and hydraulic structures on western rivers which obviously is the violation of treat and a major threat to Pakistan’s share of water.

According to statistics, most of the Indus Basin lies in Pakistan with 52.48% and India with 33.51% and about 13% of total catchment area of basin is situated in Tibet (China) and Afghanistan. In Pakistan, alluvial plains of Indus Basin covers approximately 25% of land area while in India Basin includes only 9.8% of total geographical area of country. Pakistan is a single Basin country and its dependence on external water resources is 76% while that of India is 34%.

Pakistan has reservations on Indian plans of making hydro power projects in Indian occupied Kashmir. According to Pakistan, India violated the terms and conditions of Indus Water Treaty many times by constructing dams and planning of more construction of hydro power projects thereby gaining full control on waters of western rivers. India in order to sabotage Pakistan economically often generates water projects despite settlements through Indus Water Treaty. In 1984 India started building Wullar Barrage on River Jhelum in IHK.

In mid 90s India again violated IWT by construction of Baghliar Dam on River Chenab. In 2005, Pakistan pursued World Bank’s help to stop construction of Baglihar Dam. Although WB allowed India to go ahead with the venture after a few adjustments, yet it did not license the interruption of agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan. Later India took undue advantage in construction of Kishanganga and Ratle hydro power projects on western tributaries.

This Kishanganga Dam with 330 MW hydropower station was inaugurated by Indian PM Modi few days back and the work on it was started back in 2009. Pakistan while considering a major threat to its water and violation of IWT, took the matter to World Bank who is the mediator between two countries on water dispute. The Kishanganga project was delayed for several years as Pakistan dragged India to the International Court of Arbitration, which ruled in India´s favour in 2013. India has said the hydropower projects underway in Jammu and Kashmir are “run-of-the-river” schemes that use the river´s flow and elevation to generate electricity rather than large reservoirs, and do not contravene the treaty. Pakistan maintains a stance that dam’s construction will likely disrupt the flow of water into Pakistan which is especially crucial for the country’s agriculture.

This dam is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the River Jhelum basin and located 5km north of Bandipore in Occupied Kashmir. Ratle project (850MW) is located at River Chenab and is also near completion. If India manages to construct Ratle project on river Chenab, it is going to pose serious threat to irrigation in Punjab and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. Ratle project is designed in a way that it is going to reduce flow of River Chenab by 40 per cent at the site of head Marala.

India has plans to generate 22,000MW from rivers in Occupied Kashmir till 2022. So far India is ahead of Pakistan in constructing dams. It has built 330 MW project of Dalhasti, 450 MW project on Baghliar and now near completion are its Kishanganga and Ratle hydropower projects. On River Neelum that joins the Jhelum River in Pakistan, India completed Uri-1, Uri-II hydropower projects. Apart from these big projects it also made Nimmo Bazgo and Chattak hydropower projects in occupied area. Pakistan has also raised concern on three other projects of India on River Chenab which include Paka Dul, a project of 1,000 MW, Miyar 120 MW and Lower Kalnai project of 48MW. Pakistan is surely a water gifted country with the Indus Basin Irrigation System being the world’s largest connecting irrigation system with huge potentials.

However, presently country faces serious constraints and management problems in water sector including water related issues with India. There is an urgent need of resolving all these issues while effectively safeguarding Pakistan legal and rightful interests. Pakistan must timely stop India from water terrorism and work on steady basis to construct more dams to overcome problems related to water scarcity and power generation.

Reema Shaukat— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad. Pak Observer