IN case of India and Pakistan water issue is partition old and India often manipulated tactics to deprive Pakistan from its due share. 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 as an 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.
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. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan is one of the world’s most arid countries, with an average rainfall of under 240 mm a year. The population and the economy are heavily dependent on yearly inflow into the Indus river system which includes the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers and receive about 180 billion cubic meters of water that generally come from the neighbouring countries and mostly from snow-melt in the Himalayas. The balance between population and available water already makes Pakistan one of most water stressed countries of world and with rapid population growth it will soon enter a condition of absolute water scarcity.
Pakistan definitely 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 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 hydropower 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. Somehow it is observed that Pakistani authorities and officials are not showing seriousness on Indian designs of Water terrorism against Pakistan. Rather those who speak in favour of Pakistan and stress on construction of dams they are often disregarded and removed from their duties. One of Chairman WAPDA was forced to resign for advocating Kalabagh dam in his series of columns which is a sad situation for a country which needs water reservoirs as many as possible. There is a dire need that Pakistan should take stand on its water resources as soon as possible so that India be stopped from constructing dams with malfunctioning designs on Pakistan’s share of water.
Pakistan must also work on steady basis to construct more dams to overcome problems related to water scarcity and power generation. If Pakistan will not take this matter seriously, it 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 favouring Pak-India losing its position. Awareness through print and electronic media can help in highlighting water scarcity and effective management of available water reservoirs.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think tank based in Islamabad.