Kashmir the ultimate loser in Indo-Pak water wars
Srinagar: In Jammu and Kashmir some 60 dam projects are on papers to add an extra 3,000 MW
of power to starved power grid of the state.
But the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) verdict on Kishenganga hydro project is going to
make it tougher for J&K and New Delhi to go ahead with the projects without hurting Pakistan’s vital interests.
Experts say the growing
rivalry between India and Pakistan over the three major rivers flowing from Kashmir could threaten South Asia’s peace.
Jammu and Kashmir
loses Rs 40000 Cr annually due to Indus Water Treaty (IWT), according to Prof Nisar Ali, a noted Kashmiri economist.
“The total power
generation capacity from Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers is around 20000 Megawatt, but IWT puts us at disadvantage as we cannot build dams on the
rivers,” said Nisar, who has written about the treaty and its effects on the economy of the region over the years. He has also advised J&K to
seek compensation from India. “It is an international treaty which India is following, but it should pay damages J&K suffers economically
because of it,” says Nisar.
Indus Watery Treaty was inked in 1960 and has survived three major wars between India and Pakistan. The
treaty lays down details of how much water each side should use. The treaty, however, revolves around the tributaries that flow from Kashmir to form
Indus – the lifeline of Pakistan.
Nisar says Pakistan was preemptive after what happened during Bhaglihar, but the half- built dam
remains source of hostility. Pakistan went to International Court of Arbitration for the first time to challenge the construction of Baghlihar and
India had to accept the settlement. Discussing Baghlihar, another expert Shakeel Qalander says apart from Kashmir, now Pakistan is also suffering.
This makes up for a tricky situation which, he says, is a future “water bomb” in South Asia.
“Kashmir is the biggest loser
in the treaty. Pakistan should have signed a better deal. It is their problem to think about water discharge and its economic effects,” said
Qalander, who in the past has blamed the successive state governments for allowing National Hydroelectric Power Corporation for “looting”
Kashmir’s water resources and damaging the fragile environment.
United States senate had similar observations around the growing water
dispute between the two nuclear armed nations. Its report, published last year, read: “The cumulative effect of [many dam] projects could give
India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season.” Dams are a source of
“significant bilateral tension”, the report concludes.
For Kashmir the problem is multi-dimensional. Growing hostility between
India and Pakistan, environmental cost and no benefits from projects where India silently puts billions to fulfill its growing energy needs is not
helping the water-rich state anyways.
“It is a criminal silence from the successive state governments which allowed NHPC to have
unconstitutional and illegal rights on power projects in J&K. We are not getting benefited from these projects and they just create havoc on our
environment,” says Qalander.
After the International Court of Arbitration, Hague gave its verdict over Kishenganga river, which is Neelum
in Pakistan, the race to complete hydropower projects will only intensify on either side of Kashmir. The dam build in this part of Kashmir will divert
river through a 22 km mountain tunnel to turbines. Pakistan argues that will lessen the water and will affect not only its 960 MW upcoming power
project but also over 6 lakh farmers in its territory.
Last September, ICA asked India to suspend work on the project, but with last
Monday’s judgment it is likely that tension will only simmer. India is likely to finish the project in 2016.
A Pakistani water expert in
New Delhi recently said, “Only thing which can take Pakistan in direct confrontation with India are the violations of IWT by New