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Water aggression

Indian Union Minister of state for water resources Arjun Meghwal announced stopping of 0.53 million acre feet of water flow from the easterly rivers towards Pakistan. As a lower riparian country Pakistan can use water for irrigation and other purposes from the rivers Ravi and Sutlej which were allotted to India under the 1960 Indus water Treaty (IWT). It is not clear as to stopping water flow of these towards come under the violation of this treaty or not. Under this agreement Pakistan has exclusive rights over three westerly rivers of Indus, Jehlum and Chenab.

India has diverted bulk of the water flow from a tributary of river Jehlum, Neelum River by completing construction of Kishan Ganga dam. India has started construction of Pakal Dual Dam on river Chenab in violation of IWT. The dam has a water storage capacity of 108,000 acre feet. India will also build Lower Kalnai dam on the tributary of the same river with storage capacity of 1058 acre feet. Pakistan has objected to the designs of these dams and a Pakistani delegation led by Indus Water Commissioner Syed Meher Ali Shah visited India in January which inspected the sites of these projects. However, it is not yet known whether India has accepted Pakistan’s objections and will accommodate its proposals to modify the designs of the dam.

The deliberate neglect of building water storage and electricity generation dams by successive civilian governments downstream and upstream Tarbella on the river Indus has converted the country from water surplus to water stressed. Silting has reduced the water storage capacity in the Tarbella dam reservoir from 13.681 million acre feet (MAF) to 9.360million. The water storage capacity of Mangla dam declined from 1062 to 1040 despite the completion of its level rising work which was started by the government of President Musharraf in addition to the Neelum Jehlum hydropower project.

In view of the looming threat of acute water crisis, Supreme Court issued directives for the construction of Diyamer Basha dam on the river Indus and Mohmand dam on river Sawat. The construction of Diyamer Basha dam was delayed for 15 years. Former Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar launched a donation fund for these dam in which donations of Rs. 9 billion plus have so far been received. Negotiations are being held with foreign donor agencies for the financing of these dams. Contract for the construction of Mohmand dam has been awarded whereas bidding process for Diyamer Basha dam will be invited in due course of time. However, for resolving water crisis more big and small dams have to be constructed. For long term solution construction of Kalabagh dam is inevitable for which the present government must initiate a process of consensus building.