Kishanganga Hydropower Project7 May 2010
The News International
Islamabad: While Pakistan and India are agreeing to move on to a post-Mumbai negotiation process by developing a new framework for talks, the water dispute places an increasing burden on the leadership of the two countries where water is being used as a 'collective resource'. The problem between the two countries arose when India decided to build a dam on the Kishanganga River that originates in Indian Occupied Kashmir, with a plea to solve the problem of navigation over a distance of 22km between the Wullar Lake and Baramula in order to connect Srinagar with Baramula. The Kishanganga river assumes the name of Neelum river upon entering in the Azad Kashmir region and becomes river Jhelum when it enters Pakistan. India proposed to build the barrage in 1984 on the River Jhelum, at the mouth of Wullar Lake, Indiaís largest fresh water lake, near Sopore town in Kashmir Valley. The proposed site for dam is near Kanzalwan, a town from where the river enters Azad Kashmir. The Indian plans include storing water and then tunnelling it to the Wuller lake, where it is constructing a 800MW power house. Pakistan has been vehemently opposing the construction of the Kishanganga project. Pakistan believes the diversion of waters of Neelum is not allowed under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, and it will face a 27 per cent water deficit, when the project gets completed in 2016. The reduced water flow in the Neelum would not yield the required results of the proposed 1.6 billion dollars Neelum-Jehlum hydropower project that has been designed to generate 969 MW of electricity. Pakistan believes Wullar barrage can be: (a) used as a geo-strategic weapon - a mean to intimidate Pakistan, (b) used as a potential to disrupt the triple canal project of Pakistan (upper Jhelum, upper Chenab, Lower Bari Doab canals), (c) a tool badly affecting the Neelum-Jehlum hydro-power project, (d) affecting agriculture in Azad Kashmir (e) would dry 5.6 million acres of lands of Punjabís cultivable land, in case Kishanganga water is blocked and the excess is diverted to Wuller barrage, (f) would results in loadshedding, if Pakistan do not get enough water to run its turbines and (g) would dry Mangla dam. The Indian point of view regarding construction of Wullar barrage is: (a) it can transport 0.5 million tonnes of apples and other fruits from the gardens Baramula jungles to Srinagar. (b) not affecting the stored water being put to agriculture use. (c) a navigational project. (d) would off-load silt, therefore, Mangla would get silt-free water. (e) would help maintain the flow of flood waters. Indian say that as Pakistan is not developing its hydel resources anyway, they should not get so serious about the objections of the barrage. During the recently concluded annual talks at the Permanent Commission of Indus Water, both sides could not resolve the objections like: free board of the dam, quantum of storage, silt outlet and diversion of water as the Indian side maintained its previous position. According to the original Indian plan, the barrage was expected to be of 439-feet long and 40-feet wide, and would have a maximum storage capacity of 0.30 million acres feet of water. As an upper riparian state, India is responsible to collect and provide information regarding floods, rainfalls, etc, to Pakistan on daily, monthly or yearly basis, whenever it is required by Pakistan. The Indian reluctance to share information about the planned water projects is not helping matters. Additionally, Pakistan has a right on the waters of river Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. India is allowed to build a barrage on the river Jhelum of not more than 10,000 acres feet of water, whereas, it utilising Jhelum water up to 7,50,000 acres feet of water. The dispute has already triggered anger among farmers on this side of the border, and provided some groups an opportunity to fuel anti-India emotions. The multi-billion dollar Indian programme to build dams and water reservoirs under the grab of so-called food and energy security, is a part of Indian grand design to divert the water from Pakistan and make it a desert. Unfortunately, Indians are doing little to allay Islamabadís concerns regarding their plans to build several dams on the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. These dams are believed to have the potential to choke off water flows of Pakistani rivers. This attitude has pushed Pakistan to seek international arbitration against the construction of the Kishanganga Hydropower Project in violation of the treaty. The decision to seek international arbitration has been taken after due deliberation and consideration, so as to give the bilateral dispute-resolution mechanism a chance. Pakistan’s position, however, is very strong. James Crawford is being hired for the job because he had represented Pakistan before the neutral expert when Pakistan took its case on the Baglihar project on Chenab a few years ago. The government is estimated to have allocated about 10m dollars for the case. According to Indus Water Treaty of 1960, India has been allotted exclusive control-right over the waters of the eastern rivers, namely; the Ravi, the Beas and the Sutlej. Pakistan controls the waters of three western rivers; the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab. It is interesting to note that the base-source of water of all the rivers flows from Indian Held Kashmir (IHK). As the demand for water increased manifold, Indiaís growing lust for maximum control over the sources of the supply of water of three western rivers, became more pronounced for its burgeoning population. The treaty barred India from storing any water or constructing any storage works on the western rivers that would result in a reduced flow of water to Pakistan. The Indian design to construct dams on Pakistani rivers will diminished the flow of Jhelum during the vital Rabi crop-sowing season (January and February) threatening Pakistan’s agro-based economy. There are over 48,000 large dams in operation worldwide, with India having 4,635 dams while Pakistan is lingering around the figure of just 72 dams. India should avoid building water dams cum hydroelectric projects where water is availed as a ìcollective resourceî. Any major upstream alteration in a river system should be negotiated, not imposed as in case of Wullar barrage on its lower riparian users. The governments of India and Pakistan should look beyond national borders to basin-wide cooperation. It is hoped that both sides would revert to the dialogue process in the larger interest of peace and stability in the region. A similar situation arose between India and Pakistan on the Salal Dam issue, but the matter was finally resolved through bilateral negotiations and conclusion of Salal Dam Treaty in 1978. As the Salal Dam issue was resolved through talks, given the will, the Krishanganga issue can also be settled, according to the Indus Water Treaty-1960.