WB mediation sought over water dispute

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: A high-level Pakistan delegation led by Indus Water Commissioner Syed Mehr Ali Shah left for the United States on Sunday for meetings with the World Bank (WB) officials to press for the complete implementation of the Indus Water Treaty signed between Pakistan and India in 1960.
The Pakistani delegation will be in the US for five days and will take up its demand for the establishment of a court of arbitration to address concerns over the designs of India’s two hydroelectric power projects Kishanganga and Ratle.
India has asked WB to appoint a neutral expert for the same purpose.
Pakistan has raised objections over the construction of the Kishanganga (330MW) and Ratle (850MW) hydroelectric power plants being built by India.
Islamabad maintains that the design features of the two hydroelectric plants contravene the treaty. “The plants are on respectively a tributary of the Jhelum and the Chenab Rivers,” said a WB fact sheet. “The treaty designates these two rivers as well as the Indus as the ‘Western Rivers’ to which Pakistan has unrestricted use. Among other uses, under the treaty, India
is permitted to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers subject to constraints specified in annexures to the treaty,” it added.
In March, soon after tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours flared up, New Delhi started impeding the flow of three rivers shared by the two countries.
New Delhi had stopped 0.53 million acre-feet of water from the three eastern rivers flowing into Pakistan. Talks on the lingering water disputes between the long-time rivals were held in August 2018 but ended without any major breakthrough.
On February 22, India’s Transport and Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced that his country had decided to stop “its share of water which used to flow to Pakistan”. Taking to Twitter, the minister had said, “Our government has decided to stop our share of water which used to flow to Pakistan.”
He had added that India would divert water from eastern rivers and supply it to its territories – Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and Punjab.
Later on May 9, India’s Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had said that New Delhi would stop Pakistan’s share of water – allocated in the Indus Water Treaty – if Islamabad “does not stop supporting terror groups”.
“We have already started a study into the matter. The water that will be stopped from flowing into Pakistan will be given to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan,” the minister had said during a press conference on his campaign tour.
Gadkari had further said that Pakistan and India signed the water treaty based on friendship that has long since vanished. “So we are not bound to follow this treaty,” Gadkari, who also held the portfolio of shipping and water resources, had said.
Earlier in August 2018, talks between Pakistan and India on the issue of water distribution ended in a deadlock as the visiting delegation from New Delhi refused to give in to Islamabad’s objections over the violation of Indus Waters Treaty 1960.
The Indian delegation led by its Water Commissioner PK Saxena maintained that Pakistan had not built a single major dam after Mangla and Tarbela as Pakistan objected to the construction of two Indian dams on Chenab River. Indian dignitaries had also claimed that the changing climate had led to severe lack of water supply in Indian rivers.
Media reports had said that the two-day talks had failed to reach a consensus after Islamabad’s reservations persisted over the designs of PakalDul and Lower Kalnai projects. With the failure of negotiations, the two sides had also snubbed the joint briefing which was expected after the water talks. India would continue the construction of 1000MW PakalDul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects on River Chenab despite the concerns conveyed by the Pakistani authorities regarding their designs, the reports added.
During the first day of talks, the Pakistani delegation had demanded a reduction of five metres in the height of the PakalDul project, urging the Indian representatives to “clarify the filling up and vacating pattern of the lake for PakalDul hydroelectric power plant”.