In his speech at an election rally yesterday in Haryana, Indian Prime Minister NrendraModi resorted to belligerent overtones by saying that India will stop the downward flow of three westerly rivers to Pakistan as the water of these rivers entirely belong to India. It should not betaken as a election slogan to influence the electorate for the Haryana Assembly elections, a few days away, keeping in view the violation of Indus Basin Water Treaty (IWT) by both congress and BJP governments in the past. The treaty had been signed in September 1960 with the mediation of the World Bank, which allocates 80 percent water of the Indus River System, comprising three westerly rivers including Indus, Jehlum and Chnab to Pakistan. It allocates hundred percent controls to India over the three easterly rivers of Sutlej, Bias and Ravi. The treaty allows India to use 20 percent water from the westerly rivers that had been allocated to Pakistan.
India has all along shown obduracy to resolve water disputes with Pakistan within the parameters of IWT. The blatant violations of the of the provisions of the treaty in the shape of completing the construction Kishan Ganga Dam in 2004 on a tributary of River Jhelum, known as Neelum River in Pakistan is a classic example. It reduces the flow of water for the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project. India has started the construction of two dams of controversial designs—1000 megawatt PakalDul and 48 megawatt Lower Kalnai on river Chenab.
Ironically, the leaderships of PPP and PML-N did not give importance to proactive water diplomacy viz-à-viz India in their respective three tenures of governments which enabled it to establish a strong lobby in the World Bank. This multilateral donor agency has now abdicated its role of sole guarantor of IWT. The Indian lobby in Washington had succeeded and the World Bank had openly come out in support of Indian stance on the construction of controversial hydropower projects. After lingering on the issue of Kishan Ganga dam for two years, Pakistan was asked to withdraw its plea for setting up a court of arbitration and accept Indian proposal of appointing a neutral expert.
The World Bank had informed the Attorney General of Pakistan office that is ready to appoint a neutral expert to examine the issues pertaining to the construction design of Kishan Ganga dam on reviver Neelum and Ratel hydropower project on River Chenab, if Pakistan gives up its demand for constituting the court of arbitration. It merits mention here that India had completed the construction Baglihar dam on River Chenab in 2004. Pakistan did not accept the proposal of appointing neutral observer floated by India in 2016. In June last year, former Attorney General of Pakistan, AshtarAusaf Ali led a delegation for two day meeting with World Bank officials but could not convince them on Pakistan’s stance on Kishan Ganga and Ratel hydropower projects. On the other hand the management of this bank stopped Asian Development Bank from approving funding to DiyamerBasha dam and made it conditional with NOC from India on the false premise that the site of the dam is in disputed territory.
The Indus River System serves as lifeline for the agrarian economy of Pakistan as its over 60 percent geographical area, including its agriculture heartland, Punjab, is dependent on conservation and availability of water resources from the Indus Basin System. But it is a bad chapter of its political and economic history that all elected governments had put the construction of big storage dams on the backburner since 1975. It is very pathetic that political myopia prevailed and construction of Kalabagh dam had been abandoned.
The water storage capacity of the existing two big dams of Tarbella and Mangla has declined. Silting has reduced the storage capacity of Tarbella dam reservoir from13.681million acre feet to 9.360. Likewise, the storage capacity of Mangla dam has significantly gone down. The overall storage capacity hardly suffices for 36 days whereas other countries have built up this facility for 130 days. The looming threat of water scarcity necessitates not only proactive water diplomacy to resolve water disputes with India but also building consensus for starting construction of Kalabagh dam for which multilateral donors are willing to provide finances.