Chinese help for dam in AJK spurs India response

14 April 2008
The Dawn
Jawed Naqvi

New Delhi: India said on Monday that it would expedite the strategically important but disputed Kishanganga hydro project in Jammu and Kashmir on a tributary of the Jhelum river as Pakistan had commenced work on a similar project in its territory, awarding the contract to a Chinese company. “Now that Pakistan has begun work with the help of a Chinese firm, we have to put the 969 MW project on a fast track to be done by the National Hydro Electric Power Corporation,” Minister of State for Power Jairam Ramesh was quoted by Press Trust of India as telling reporters here. The comments are significant since Pakistan had raised objections on the design of the Kishanganga dam as well as to inter-tributary diversion of waters, which it claims would affect its proposed Neelam-Jhelum hydropower project in Azad Kashmir. The Jhelum tributary is called Kishanganga on the Indian side while it is known as Neelum in Pakistan. The Kishanganga project near Bandipur in Baramullah — covered under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 —involves diversion of waters of one tributary of Jhelum to another, which, according to India, is permissible under the Treaty. Indian officials say privately that under the Indus Water Treaty, India is allowed conservation storage of 0.75 million acre feet of water, including for general storage and power storage even in the run-of-the-river projects. The 330 mw Kishanganga project involves use of 0.14 million acre feet of water for power. Mr Ramesh said while the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs had cleared the project in July 2007, it saw cost overruns from Rs 22,000 crore to Rs 37,000 crore due to militancy and geological risks. The ministry will take the project with revised cost estimates to the CCEA again after which the NHPC would be asked to commence work at a fast speed. “The project is of strategic importance as it is located on the border,” Mr Ramesh said. With Pakistan having begun work on their side of the river, India, too, had to work with renewed sense of urgency, PTI quoted him as saying.