IWT: India unjustly controls flow of Indus waters | BY Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi

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IWT: India unjustly controls flow of Indus waters

UNDENIABLY, Narendra Modi’s policy of water brinkmanship in the Indus Basin reflects an ultranationalist approach—as India unjustly controls over the flow of the Indus water tributaries or Pakistan’s western waters— which is lethal to regional peace and stability.

Pakistan justifiably pleads that India as an upper riparian country, tactically exploits the terms stipulated in the Indus Water Treaty (IWT).

Thus, in line with its responsibilities under the Indus Waters Treaty, the World Bank has recently made the appointments that it was mandated to make in the two separate processes requested by India and Pakistan in relation to the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants.

That said, Mr.Michel Lino has been appointed as the Neutral Expert and Prof.Sean Murphy has been appointed as Chairman of the Court of Arbitration.

Notably, the Indus, a trans-boundary river of Asia, is also a trans-Himalayan river of South and Central Asia.

The Indus Water Treaty signed in 1960— sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between India and Pakistan regarding their use of rivers, known as the Permanent Indus Commission, which has a Commissioner from each country.

Moreover, the Treaty also sets forth distinct procedures to handle issues which may arise: “questions” are handled by Commission; “differences” are to be resolved by a Neutral Expert; and “disputes” are to be referred to a seven-member arbitral tribunal called the “Court of Arbitration.”

According to the World Bank spokesperson, “The Indus Waters Treaty is a profoundly important international agreement that provides an essential cooperative framework for India and Pakistan to address current and future challenges of effective water management to meet human needs and achieve development goals’’.

The international water law provides a safety valve regarding the interests between the upstream and downstream riparian states, and this remained the core idea of formulating the Indus Water Treaty.

The Kishanganga River flows through the regions of Neelum in AJK and Astore before entering the India-occupied region of Gurez.

The dam will give India control over a river that flows from Pakistan into India-occupied Kashmir and then re-enters Pakistan.

The Treaty gives India control over three eastern rivers — Beas, Ravi and Sutlej. Pakistan argues that the Kishanganga project violates both conditions by changing course of the river and depleting the water level.

The effects of the Kishanganga hydroelectric project in India on downstream water availability in Pakistan resulted in diplomatic tensions between the two countries.

In 2013, Pakistan sought World Bank intervention to block the dam, which was refused. However, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) issued an interim order in 2013 which allowed India to divert water from the Kishanganga River for purposes of electricity production, but required India to change the design in order to ensure a minimum standard flow of water downstream to Pakistan.

After India’s recent announcement that it was commissioning all three units at Kishanganga, Pakistan wrote to the World Bank demanding that it ensured India abided by the treaty.

And consequently, the World Bank approved its application for appointing a neutral arbitrator.

The project is seen as giving India control over the river’s flow before re-entering Pakistan due to its location in India-occupied Kashmir just metres away from the Line of Control (Iqbal, 2018).

The expected impact of the project on water availability in Pakistan thus caused political friction between the two countries from the onset, with Pakistan objecting that the diversion of water contravened the Indus Waters Treaty.

Pakistan argued that the KHEP would reduce downstream water flow and leave the country with 27% less water than natural flow (Islam et al, 2014).

Consequently, this would affect irrigation, agriculture and power generation downstream at the Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric power plant (NJHEP) in Pakistan.

The Ratle hydroelectric power project is an 850MW project being revived on the Chenab River in the Kishtwar district of India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) The Ratle Hydroelectric Plant is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station currently under construction on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Kishtwar district in Jammu and Kashmir.

The main power station will contain four 205 MW Francis turbines and the auxiliary power station will contain one 30 MW Francis turbine.

But its operation will ultimately affect the downstream flow—a genuine concern for Pakistan.

There is no denying the fact that Kishinganga and Rattle dams designed and launched in India have intrinsically exacerbated tension between the two nuclear South Asian States — India and Pakistan.

And above all, the worsening effects of climate change on the Himalayan glaciers are doubling down the likelihood of disasters and threaten the long-term water security in the South Asian region—recently vindicated by the devastating magnitude of floods in Pakistan.

Needless to say, Narendra Modi’s evil hydro politics played on ‘trans-boundary waters’ is badly destroying Pakistan‘s hydro economics, river ecosystem and its floodplain, where most of Pakistan’s population lives, is one of the largest agricultural regions in Asia.

Around 90% of Pakistan’s food and 65% of its employment depend on farming and animal husbandry, which are sustained by the Indus that runs along the LoC, which separates the India-occupied Jammu and Kashmir from the Pakistani-administrated regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK.

As per the Indus Water Treaty, India may nonetheless get run-of-the-river designs rather than building dams with heavy storage (a mala fide Indian practice adopted for the endless years); not only are these less efficient at storing electricity, but they also cannot conserve water during the monsoon, causing runoff into the Arabian Sea and shortage during the summers.

India’s unjust policy badly deprives the Pakistani fields of vital nutrients while lowering their productivity.

Needless to say, water scarcity and climate change are significant ramifications for Pakistan’s economy.

The Hague-based Court in 2013 observed: ‘’ India could divert water…for power generation” but also had to maintain a “minimum flow…in the river.

Arguably, where river basins are trans-boundary, this requires ‘’regular and structured consultation, coordination and cooperation among all states sharing the catchment’’— yet India is not fulfilling this international responsibility.

Pakistan’s basic water resource —is the Indus River and its tributaries, and under the Indus Water Treaty — organically depends on its three western rivers — Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.

Being an agro based country, Pakistan’s economy largely depends on the Indus water whose flow is being unjustly controlled by India.

—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.

He deals with the strategic and nuclear issues.