Home / Opinion / Gushing on Pakistan’s Water | Reema Shaukat

Gushing on Pakistan’s Water | Reema Shaukat

Pakistan is a God gifted country with plenty of resources particularly water which is in abundance but it is becoming scarce due to politics played over it by local and international players. Climatic change is also one of leading factor which is effecting water resources. With the approaching hot summers, lack of water is definitely going to muddle situation for normal livelihood of Pakistanis. Water scarcity, shortage of electric supply and later monsoon rains and it’s after effects are always troublesome for common man. But history suggests that water politics between India and Pakistan is partition old and since then dispute over water is never seriously taken up and seems Pakistan is always at suffering end.

Pakistan, in initial years after independence faced lot of problems particularly in agriculture because of stoppage of water by India. As the major rivers flowing towards Pakistan originate from India, dispute and sharing over water always came up issue for Pakistan because of Indian stubbornness. To overcome problems an Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan with the help of World Bank in 1960.Apparently it seemed that this agreement will put an end to water issue between two neighbours but with passage of time it is observed that this treaty is often violated by India and it causes serious water shortages for the Pakistan.

Before independence British constructed canal system to irrigate the area which is now modern day Pakistan. Partition left that system dependent on India for supply of water to Pakistan. According to Indus Water Treaty, water that flows into river Indus will be shared between the two countries but as the tributaries of Indus River originate in India, it is always playing politics on distribution of water to Pakistan. Before Indus Water Treaty, distribution of water was made on an ad hoc basis. Following the treaty usage of three eastern offshoots of rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi were given to India while three western rivers tributaries Chenab, Jhelum and the Indus were approved for Pakistan. All of these six rivers flow through Kashmir which is bone of contention between two South Asian neighbours. Pakistan therefore depends on India for its water security.

Pakistan is concerned by 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 the 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 the World Bank’s help to stop construction of the Baglihar dam. Although WB allowed India to go ahead with the venture after a few adjustments, yet it did not license the interruption of the agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan. Indian decision to construct two hydro power projects called Kishanganga on River Neelum are again violation of Indus Water Treaty. India is taking undue advantage in construction of Ksihanganga and Ratle hydro power projects on western tributaries.

Indus Water Commission has also raised concerns on construction of dams by India in occupied territory of Kashmir. Indian is gaining favour on Kishanganga project (330MW)which is at final stage of construction. 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 it would take one and half year for completion. If India manages to construct Ratle project on river Chenab, it is going to pose serious threat to irrigation in Punjab and Sindh provincesof Pakistan. Ratle project is designed in a way that it is going to reduce flow of River Chenab by 40 percent 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 Jehlum 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.

Somehow it is observed that Pakistani authorities and officials are not showing seriousness on Indian designs of Water terrorism against Pakistan. This attitude will definitely encourage India for its moves against Pakistan and will effect Pakistan’s stance on water resources badly. The delay in making approach to World Bank to resolve dispute between two countries and asking for appointment of neutral party is favoring India and Pakistan losing its position. Therefore there is a need to make urgent call to concern authorities so that India be stopped from moving forward on construction of dams on Pakistan’s share of water.

Indus Water Commission itself has raised concerns on construction of dams by India and termed it as violation to Indus Water Treaty. It also announced arbitrary party to resolve dispute but laziness is seen on behalf of Pakistani officials. There is a dire need that Pakistan should take stand on its water resources as soon as possible so that India be stopped from water terrorism. Pakistan must also work on steady basis to construct more dams to overcome problems related to water scarcity and power generation.

— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think tank based in Islamabad.

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