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Indus Water Treaty: Minister expresses reservations




  • Pakistan on Friday expressed reservations over the World Bank-brokered Indus Water Treaty 1960 and announced that it would safeguard the country”s interests militarily. These remarks were made by Minister for Water and Power, Khawaja Muhammad Asif at a press conference after he presided over a meeting on water issues with India. 

    Khawaja Asif”s remarks came just one day after a meeting with the Belgian Ambassador who called on him in the Ministry and discussed the Indus Water Treaty in detail. The Minister said Pakistan is heading towards becoming a water-starved country from a water-stressed country. 

    Replying to a question, Asif said that many patriots have doubts over the Indus Treaty inked by the then dictator, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, adding that the Treaty was skewed towards India. “We will ensure implementation on the Treaty in letter and in spirit and whatever rights are available in the Treaty must be safeguarded militarily,” he added. 

    Asif further stated that “delays and mistakes” have been committed in the past and the incumbent government is trying to retrieve the damage, and requesting the media to be on the same page with the government in issues related to water. India, he added, submitted two articles carried by the Pakistani print media in the case of controversial Kishanganga Hydroelectric Project before the Hague-based International Court of Justice. “I want the government and media should be on the same page on issues which are being contested at the international fora or bilaterally with India.” “I personally feel that the Indus Water Treaty is not in favour of Pakistan,” Asif continued but acknowledged that India enjoys geopolitical advantage over western rivers which the treaty granted were to be for Pakistan”s exclusive use. 

    When asked if Pakistan would seek to review the “controversial” Treaty Minister for Water and Power, who recently met with Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting as a team member of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that he cannot take such a decision individually as “reopening of Treaty will be Government of Pakistan”s decision”. Pakistan”s water rights are being violated, the Minister added. Asif warned that the country may face a famine in the next 10-15 years if appropriate measures were not taken. 

    He said water is the issue of life and death for Pakistan and implementation of Indus Water Treaty with India will be ensured. To a question‚ the Minister said electricity situation is improving in the country. Earlier‚ the Minister for Water and Power was given briefing on water situation. 

    Pakistan also announced that if India doesn”t change the design of Kartely project on the Chenab River, the issue would be raised at the International Court for Justice. Additional Secretary Incharge, Saif Ullah Chattha and other officials of Water and Power Ministry were also present at the press conference. 

    APP adds: Earlier, during a briefing Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif said Pakistan is currently contesting with India over five water projects including Kishenganga, Ratle, Miyar, Lower Kalnai hydroelectric projects, Wullar Barrage and Tulbul Navigation project. Pakistan”s Commissioner for Indus Water Mirza Asif Baig and Secretary Saifullah Chattha were also present in the briefing. 

    Khawaja Asif said water is a life and death issue for the people of Pakistan as the country is water-stressed and could become water-starved in future. He said there is a need to evolve a consensus on water issues so rights of the country could be defended vigorously. He said in his opinion Indus water treaty signed with India did not judiciously distribute water. 

    When the treaty was signed Pakistan had population of 30-40 million but now it had increased five fold to 180-200 million, he added. He said there is need to change the way people use water in their homes and for agriculture. He said work will simultaneously start on Diamer-Bhasha and Dassu dams. Funding options are available for the two hydel projects. Rs 21 billion has already been spent on Diamer dam and land acquisition for it has been completed. 

    The Secretary Water and Power said India has been trying to get water in excess of the limits it is allowed under the Indus Basin Treaty. The Indus Water Commissioner said the dispute regarding the proposed diversion of Neelum water by India and draw down of the dead storage level was referred to International Court of Arbitration. 

    The Commissioner said the final hearing of Court of Arbitration was concluded on 31 August 2012 and partial award of the court has been awarded on 18 February, 2013 in which the first question of diversion was decided in favour of India and the second question of draw down in storage level in Pakistan”s favour. 

    Both the parties have to submit additional data and written submissions to the Court of Arbitration and accordingly the court will decide the quantum of water to be released below Kishenganga Hydroelectric Plant in Neelum River as environmental releases. The final award of the court is expected by December 2013, he noted. 

    He said Pakistan has objected on freeboard, magnitude of pondage and placement of spillway of Ratle Hydroelectric plant of 850 megawatts, Miyar Hydroelectric Plant of 120 megawatts, Lower Kalnai plant of 48 megawatts and Pakal Dul Hydroelectric Plant of 1,000 megawatts located on Chenab River. These objections were discussed before in two meetings of the Permanent Indus Commission in March and September and will finally be discussed in the next meeting of the Commission likely to be held in December 2013. Pakistan and India are members of the Commission. 

    Another disputed project is Wullar barrage and during the 6th round of secretary level talks, it was agreed that the Indian side will provide additional technical data to Pakistan. Pakistan will examine the data to furnish its views before the next round of the talks. They informed that unilateral construction of Wullar Barrage by India on Jhelum River was reported in 1985. Pakistan objected that storage is not allowed to India on main Jhelum. The work on the project is suspended since 1987 and it was last verified on May 30, 2013. 

    The Indus Water Treaty contains provisions allowing India and Pakistan to establish river-run power projects with limited reservoir capacity and flow control needed for feasible power generation. Under the treaty, all the water of the Eastern Rivers of Pakistan is available for the unrestricted use of India. Pakistan is allowed limited agriculture use of 45,000 acres from tributaries of river Ravi. Pakistan should receive unrestricted use of all waters of western rivers. 

    Copyright Business Recorder, 2013



    Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2013

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