Lawmakers from Pakistan and India gathered in Islamabad this week for talks on water sharing as Pakistani experts and farmers are growing increasingly concerned of India’s plans to build another 60 hydroelectric power projects on the Chenab basin, a river that is equally shared by both countries.

LAHORE: Lawmakers from Pakistan and India gathered in Islamabad this week to discuss trade, water and rights issues.

The talks aimed to resolve decades-old disputes, beginning with the contentious issue of water sharing.

Given the source rivers of the Indus basin are in India, Pakistani water experts and farmers are growing increasingly concerned of the news that India plans to build another 60 hydroelectric power projects on the Chenab basin, a river that is equally shared by both countries.

Mohammad Tariq Bucha, President of Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP), said: “By making these dams, according to the estimates which I have, they are going to block about 30 million acre feet of water. Pakistan’s share of water, which is a major and sizable share of water from the rivers, which were — according to the treaty — our share of water. They are clearly and blatantly violating the treaty regulations.”

The Indus Water Treaty brokered by the World Bank in 1960 was a water sharing treaty. According to it, Pakistan was given control of the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers but India was allowed to use them for irrigation and power generation, as long as it didn’t deprive Pakistan of its rightful share.

Pakistani farmers and water experts remain dissatisfied with the terms of the treaty and the role played by its commission.

Water and agriculture expert Hamid Malhi said: “Why the government is very lukewarm on these issues is a big question mark. On one hand, we are worried about water stoppages due to these dams by India; on the other hand, we are very openly negotiating purchasing one thousand megawatts of electricity from India so these two interests clash out here.”

Pakistan’s own Bhasha dam project located on the River Indus that is under construction is still 10 years from completion.

Mr Bucha said: “According to my information, Bhasha dam is not going to take place because there are vested interests involved in that too. I think if it all goes by conspiracy theory, India is going to stall that also in connivance with the funding bodies, whether it is World Bank or Asian Development Bank.”

Hydroelectric generation by India would not materially affect the flow of water. However, mindful of the fact that India could manipulate the timing of the flow of water — the original treaty restricted the amount of “live storage” — the water stored in a reservoir that can affect the river’s flow.

Amid the myriad of problems, Pakistan is faced with this year’s summer crop is destined to fall woefully short, adding to the misery of the common and the livelihoods of the farmers.

Experts say without waiting for a consensus on the issue, India has already started preparations to construct the proposed power projects that not only violate the treaty, international environmental conventions and cause water scarcity in Pakistan, but would also contribute towards the melting of the Himalayan glaciers.

Courtesy: channel newsasia

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