– By Rao Farman Ali
Through filtered information by the pervasive tool of mass media, Kashmiris are postured among the common Indians and Pakistanis as if they have very little to offer in terms of economy and Kashmir is landlocked with meager resources at their disposal, does, it mean that everything comes from Delhi or Islamabad. The bitter truth is that millions of Indians and Pakistani in the age of information technology have no or little knowledge of the sufferings and the agony of Kashmiris under which they go due to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) and the flawed power-sharing agreements of India, like, the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) is apt to be called as East India Company. Regardless, whether India or NHPC hands over the power projects to Kashmiris, it is difficult to live with the erroneous perception that Kashmir is surviving – courtesy the few hundred crores that New Delhi gives to Jammu and Kashmir annually for developmental activities, same is the case to people of Azad Kashmir, in 1947, import-export ratio of Kashmir [then a princely state] was 1:3, the well thought, stepmother role played towards Kashmir, the import-export ratio stands at 7:3 as of now, since 1978, the hydro power taken by NHPC from Chenab and Jhelum basins to other states of India is valued at rupees 2 lac crores but tragically, Kashmiris are given just 2 percent of the power generated from their own hydro-electric power projects at Salal, Dulhasti, Uri and so forth. For years now, earnest Kashmiris have been fighting for the return of power projects ‘illegally and unconstitutionally’ run by NHPC in Jammu and Kashmir. NHPC pocketed the entire benefits of Kashmir’s water resources. In 1975, this company came with a small amount of Rs 2,000 million(INR), currently it pots at rupees 3,870,180 million, with a hike of 193.5 times. How, people of Jammu and Kashmir are partners in this fortune built by NHPC, one fails to understand, but the claim for one-third share, the amount too has not been paid for decades, is New Delhi ready to pay the principal and also the interest on the projected amount, the answer lies in big, No.
The Salal, Uri-I and II, Dulhasti and the Sewa II power projects are managed by NHPC which generate 1680 MW of electricity, the share of Jammu and Kashmir is mere 12 percent. Jammu and Kashmir is producing only 308 MW from projects regulated and run by State Power Development Corporation (JKSDC), falling under the state sector. The Baghliar project produces another 758 MW, which too is taken by New Delhi, total requirement of the state, both domestic and industrial, is 2500 MW. The irony is that Jammu and Kashmir purchases back its own power annually from NHPC to the tune of Rs 3500 crore.
After the Partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, the water disputes attained an international dimension. Six rivers of the Indus basin originate in the Himalayas, three and a half, come from Jammu and Kashmir (on the Indian side), before crossing over to Pakistan. This led to the internationalization of the water dispute, and a negotiation process began to agree over the terms for use of water in the Indus basin. The World Bank mediated this process and attained multilateral funding to compensate Pakistan for the losses suffered on the terms of the treaty called the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), however, it caused great injustice to Kashmiris.
The inherent discord in Indus Waters Treaty is manifest in hydroelectric power projects in Jammu & Kashmir where India and Pakistan are asserting their right over water resources of the Indus basin. As the two countries wrangle over the waters of the Indus basin, in near future Kashmiris will have a reason to be agitated, surely, both India and Pakistan gained from this treaty but Kashmiris emerged as the only losers. If India and Pakistan compensate people of Jammu and Kashmir for the actual losses from this treaty, the estimated outstanding could go beyond rupees 1.25 lac crore, as far as the generation of hydroelectric power is concerned, the actual loss as against the potential loss is even more interesting. The potential capacity of Jammu and Kashmir has been reduced under the IWT because Kashmiris are allowed to create heading dams[ dams that create a head of water for power generation] but not storage dams that allow water to be stored for the lean season, which reduces power generating capacity for example Uri has a capacity to generate 680 MW, same is the case of other projects, importantly, Jammu and Kashmir is using only 9% of waters for irrigation as IWT is acting as a deterrent, Jammu and Kashmir produces almost 20 lac metric tons of food grains and requires 25 lac metric tons by 2015 estimation, thus by a deficit of 5 lac metric tons, on food grains New Delhi started blacking Kashmiris right from 1953 till date, but neither, India nor Pakistan thought to compensate the losses incurred to people of Jammu and Kashmir, which is estimated around 6500 crores annually, essentially, the growth rate for the year 2014-15 was likely to be (-)1.57% (calculated at 45126 (AE) in view of the economic slowdown and floods that stuck the state and devastated agriculture, besides other small factors, no matter, comprehensive legislation namely the J&K Water Resource Regularization & management Act, 2010 has been enacted. Under the Act the Water Resources Regulatory Authority has been set up to ensure judicious and optimum utilization of water resources of the state i.e. surface/ground water as per Water Policy as well as push ahead the reforms in the water sector. Under the Act, revise water tariff rates have been got approved by the cabinet for various uses of water thereby effectively kick-starting the much awaited water reforms process. Rs. 2422 crores have been realized so far on account of water usage charges on hydroelectric projects in the state, the net area sown in the state is 741 thousand hectares whereas, the gross area sown (total area sown under different crops) was 1160 thousand hectares. The mode of irrigating the crops mainly used is the canals, about 89 percent of the net area is irrigated through traditional canals system and only 42 percent of the total cultivated area is under irrigation, per capita income of Jammu & Kashmir at current prices is worked out at rupees 58888.00 in 2014-15, poor agriculture income has made Kashmiris more dependent, still with over 65 percent of its population depends on agriculture and allied sectors.
No matter, IWT regulations stipulate that dam water must be released within 24 hours, if water is blocked, whole of the Kashmir, Chenab and Pirpanchal valleys will get inundated, so the natural flow of the water always needs to be ensured downwards per se safe passage given towards Pakistan.
In 2013, the Jammu and Kashmir government engaged Halcrow Consulting India to quantify the losses, company pulled out of the project for unknown reasons, move was aimed to get an independent estimate of the losses which in turn can be used during discussions with the New Delhi for compensation, rough estimates suggest that the figure runs into billions of dollars. The State Finance Commission constituted through a legislation recommended that Jammu and Kashmir should seek compensation for the losses incurred on account of Indus Water Treaty from not only India but also from Pakistan, it was for the first time that such a recommendation came for seeking compensation by any quasi-official panel.
It is an admitted fact that in Asia the freshwater availability per person annually is 3920 cubic meters , while India was having around 5000 cubic meters per capita freshwater availability in 1958 and it has gone down to 1600 cubic meters in 2005, thousands of farmers in India annually commit suicides because of water shortages or droughts, in some regions ‘water stress’ is severe and the water availability is below 1000 cubic meters. The case is worse for Pakistan, in 1958 it was having 5600 cubic meters of per capita water availability, while in 2005 it has terribly gone down to 1200 cubic meters per capita, there are around 45 command water canals of Pakistan and out of them 26 are running at low levels.
The natural disasters 19 February, 2005, snow tsunami killing more than 200 hundred, 8th October 2005, Muzaffarabad earthquake claiming 79661 lives in Azad Kashmir and in valley 1309 people were killed, cloudburst of 9 August 2010 in Kargil killed more than 254 people, the September 2014 floods in Kashmir killed 281 people and as per official figures, state incurred a loss of rupees 43959.56 crore, furthermore,280 people were also killed in Pakistan, attributed by some experts as a result of climate change, to which the melting of glaciers is the main contributing factor, 30% of the largest glacier in South Asia namely Siachin has melted down because of the militarization of India and Pakistan, surely, the highest battle field of world.
Keeping in view, the immediate challenges in 2020 vis-à-vis waters and by 2025 India and Pakistan will face acute water shortage and by that period India would be having the estimated population of 1.46 billion and Pakistan will have the estimated population of 280 million, in that situation Kashmir will be a flashpoint and that will be almost a complete nuclear cataclysm for South Asia, keeping in view the Indo-Pak nuclear potential, to which waters will act as triggers, therefore, sooner the better, if India and Pakistan realise the situation and address the forthcoming issues with foresighted approach rather than polemics and giving due participatory role to Kashmiris on either side of LoC, including Gilghit and Baltistan, which are the parts of Jammu and Kashmir, as a single geographical unit, in nuance of Article XII, clause, 2 and clause 3 of IWT, the structured and progressive amendment can be the stabilizing factor to obliterate the protracted ‘Trust- Deficit’ —mutually agreed upon by both India and Pakistan— it is quite clear that the IWT is an International Treaty made with World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) is the only successful conflict resolution model, which has not been affected by 1965, 1971, 1999 Indo-Pak wars, if, some hawks in New Delhi think of abrogating or scraping the IWT, it will be treated as a war against Pakistan, to which International Court of Justice (ICJ) etc are or will the supporters to Islamabad and India will be declared as an aggressor.
[The writer is a researcher having broader understanding on Child Protection and has authored three books on Kashmir Conflict, he can be reached at; firstname.lastname@example.org]