Pakistan protests unilateral construction of Uri-II project
1 June 2007
The Daily Times
Islamabad: Pakistan formally lodged a protest on Friday against the unilateral construction of a 240-MW Uri-II hydel power project on river Jhelum in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian and Pakistani delegations led by their water commissioners have been engaged in dialogue here for the past two days in the bi-annual joint Indus Commission meeting. Sources privy to the meeting said that Pakistan has agreed to allow Indian experts to visit Neelam Valley to collect data on the water needs in AJK to redesign the 330-MW Kishanganga project. So far, India has been relying on satellite data to defend the design of the project, which is to be established on River Neelam near Bandipora in Kashmir Valley. Pakistan Water Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah demanded a full engineering update on the Uri-II project and asked for discontinuation of construction till the issue is resolved. Pakistans concerns were mainly on the height and gates of the dam as well as the poundage level and free board. While committing to provide full engineering data, the Indian delegation led by Commissioner Thareja agreed to hold a conclusive meeting on the Uri- II project in August-September this year. We have asked for a time- bound resolution of this issue as Pakistan cannot afford to fritter away time on water issues, said Shah after Fridays deliberations. Pakistan said, while India had redesigned Kishanganga project to address environmental concerns, it still envisages a diversion of Neelam river to Wullar Lake, rendering little water for Neelam Valley in AJK. Besides affecting our agricultural usage, the diversion of the river could be an environmental disaster for lush green AJK, Shah added. Shah asked India to show identical environmental concerns towards the AJK as they have towards its controlled side while redesigning the project. India, however, contested Pakistans claim that Neelam Valley would turn into a desert or that little water would be left for the agricultural use. Indian Water Commissioner Thareja presented satellite-generated data to argue that Pakistan will get enough water to sustain its agriculture. He said the dams design had a provision to release more water to AJK, but the decision will be taken only if Pakistan ascertains its needs for hydro-electric and agriculture usage. He asked Pakistan to permit Indian experts to visit the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) to collect data on the usage of water in AJK. Pakistan agreed to allow an Indian team to visit Neelam Valley later this year. Pakistan also complained about embankments on River Ravi near Narewal in Punjab. India defended these embankments, saying they were for flood protection, adding that Pakistan had also constructed such structures at various locations. It was decided that both countries would provide details of such embankments to each other. No new constructions are permitted under the Indus Water Treaty.