Umair Jalali describes a positive development of Indus Water talks conclude
Indus Water talks conclude scarcity is a global problem but the countries of South Eastern region are particularly affected by an acute shortage of water. The glaciers being the main suppliers of water resource are melting fast due to global warming. Pakistan is particularly vulnerable to the climate change as it has failed to develop water-preservation facilities over the years resulting in rain water wastage on a large scale. The estimate water loss suffered by Pakistan has reached the point where it is now rated amongst the most water-scarce countries of the world. The problem has exacerbated because the bulk of water is consumed by agriculture, the traditional life-line of Pakistan. Water scarcity has started affecting the agriculture to quite a high degree resulting in less area under cultivation and low crop-yields.
One of the major difficulties that Pakistan encounters is that the origin of its main water system River Indus is situated in Ladakh located in remote and far corner of India. The water of Indus crisscrosses mountainous regions to enter Pakistan and most of its trajectory of movement lies outside the borders of Pakistan and much into the territory controlled by India. India also has the first right on use of Indus being the upper riparian and Pakistan is dependent upon the flow being the lower riparian.
It was in this context that the 117th meeting of Pakistan- India Permanent Indus Commission held in Islamabad concluded as delegations of both the countries vowed to implement the Indus Water Treaty in true spirit. The string of meetings was held in Islamabad from 1-3 March and was dedicated to the technical details about the extremely complicated matters related to the mechanism of distribution of water between Pakistan and India. The issue arises from the fact India is the upper riparian having an upper hand sometimes carrying out activities that Pakistan, the lower riparian, frequently objected resulting in conflicts.
Under the relevant provisions of the IWT 1960, the meeting takes place alternatively in Pakistan and India annually. The Indus Water talks conclude Indian delegation visiting Pakistan for the meeting comprised 10 members that conducted parleys with their Pakistani counterpart. The entire gamut of water-related issues between Pakistan and India were discussed in the meeting. Pakistan reiterated its observations on the Kiru Hydroelectric project (HEP) located upstream river Chenab and India’s new run-of-the-river small HEPs on Western rivers. Response to Pakistan’s objections to Indian projects including Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai was also sought. The Indian side was also urged to communicate advance flood-flow information as per the provisions of the treaty and the practice in vogue from 1989 until 2018.
This Indus Water talks conclude round of high level talks between Islamabad and New Delhi on the construction of hydropower projects by India in the disputed border areas of China, India and Pakistan, including Kargil, remained inconclusive. India has categorically rejected Pakistan’s concerns over the provision of data on the flow of eastern rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Beas as per the 1989 data sharing arrangement. In the first round of talks, the Pakistani side, along with his Indian counterpart, conveyed technical concerns over the construction of the 644 MW Khetro Hydropower Project on the Chenab River by India.
Pakistan’s position on the controversial project was that the design of the project could affect the flow of the Chenab River in Pakistan. This will have a direct impact on the agricultural areas adjacent to Head Marala, a major reservoir near Sialkot. It was reported that the tussle between the Indus Water Commissioners of the two countries started at the time when the Pakistani Indus Water commissioner presented his position to his Indian counterpart regarding the provision of data on the flow of eastern rivers to Pakistan.
The Indian side said that India could only provide data on the flow of eastern rivers to Pakistan in case of high floods forecast during the monsoon. In response, the Pakistani side questioned its Indian counterpart as to who would be responsible for the loss of human lives in Pakistan due to floods in case of non-provision of water flow data in the eastern rivers by India in time. However, the Indian authorities rejected Pakistan’s position, under the 1989 unanimous proposal, to provide data on the flow of Indian eastern rivers with Pakistan before the onset of the monsoon.
On Pakistan’s objection on the design of Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai, India has assured that Pakistan will be informed of the positive developments regarding the design of the project by May this year. While India’s position on Lower Kalnai was that development work on the said project has been stopped since 2014. Pakistan’s position on the controversial project was that the design of the project could affect the flow of the Chenab River in Pakistan. This will have a direct impact on the agricultural areas adjacent to Head Marala, a major reservoir near Sialkot. TW
Umair Jalali teaches in Denning Law School and is an avid sports fan