Hassan Rasheed Siddiqui
Water is a basic necessity of all human beings and is inevitable for their survival. Post-Pulwama incident, India started dirty politics of water by going against the provisions of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) – the water distribution treaty between the two countries that dictates the fair use of water from Indus system of rivers located in India. The treaty or agreement – brokered by the World Bank – was signed by the two countries in September 1960. According to the agreement, India has control over the Eastern rivers, Ravi, Sutlej and Bias while Pakistan has control over three Western rivers, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum.
The waters of the Indus System of Rivers originate primarily in Tibet region of China and the Himalayan mountains in the states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. They flow through the states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Sindh, etc. before emptying into the Arabian Sea south of Karachi, Pakistan and Kori Creek in Indian state of Gujarat.
As Pakistan’s rivers receive more water from India, it has prompted India to wage a water war against Pakistan, going against the IWT, and construct two 1800 MW electricity generation projects on river Chenab in Jummu and Kashmir. The completion of these projects will result in largely stopping Chenab river’s water flowing into Pakistan. The two projects, called “Pakal Dal” (1000 MW) and “Bursar” (800 MW) are being constructed in Kishtwar District in Jummu and Kashmir.
India had initially planned to construct six new projects in Chenab basin, including Sawalkot (1,856MW), Kirthai-I & II (390MW, 930MW), Pakal Dal (1,000MW), Kwar (540MW), Kiru (624MW) and Bursar (800MW) in the Chenab basin. Most of the projects are in feasibility stage except the two aforementioned projects which are being expedited by the Government of India. These two new projects are being constructed in secrecy and without making any formal announcements or asking for Pakistan’s permission. According to IWT, India cannot exercise any control over or use the waters of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab (any more than the defined usage in the agreement). Moreover, India has to inform Pakistan and ask for the permission before planning or initiating any project on the three Western rivers under Pakistan’s control.
Besides these two new dams being constructed, India has already constructed two electric power plants Baghlihar-I and II in 2008 and DulHasti in 2007.
These projects are expected to use 100 thousand Acre-Feet water of Chenab, depriving Pakistan of the full share of its water. Bursar Dam, would be constructed near Hanzal Village (near Kishtwar) in Doda District of Jammu & Kashmir on the 133-kilometre-long Marusudar River, the main right bank tributary of the Chenab river. Its construction would be a serious violation of IWT as its storage was much behind the permissible limits. More than 4900 acres of thick forest would be submerged and the whole population of Hanzal village would be displaced. One of the worst impacts of dam would be on glaciers of Marusudar river basin. The deforestation, coupled with high altitude military activities in the area, have already created 48 glacial lakes in the Marusudar river basin covering an area of 225.35 sq km. Such massive construction activities in basin would further aggravate the melting of glaciers and create serious environmental risks.
In the Past there have been reports published about India’s plan to grab more water from Pakistan’s river by constructing a 23 kilometers long concrete tunnel that would link Pakistan’s Chenab River with India’s Beas River and constructing a Jyspa Dam on Chenab River at the village in Lahaul and Spiti district, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The dam is meant to hold 0.8 million acre feet of water to feed 11 major power projects downstream in the Chenab river basin.
The Chenab basin in Himachal, which had once been free of hydropower projects, today has 20 projects lined up in a stretch of 130 km, in an attempt to utilise every stretch of river that belongs to Pakistan according to Indus Water Treaty.
There are also reports of India constructing 14 small dams on smaller water streams falling into Indus River as well as diverting waters from River Jhelum to River Ravi whose water is being channeled to Rajasthan state of India.
India is reportedly stealing around 8000 cusecs (Cubic feet per second) water from River Chenab, every day. River Chenab usually has around 30,000 cusec water flowing in rainy season but due to the illegal projects constructed by India, the flow of water has reduced to around 16,000 cusecs which has adversely affected the fertility of the surrounding lands which depended on the water from Chenab. Almost all the main water canals in Punjab province – which receive water from the rivers, have dried up due to insufficient water. Around 3.5 million acres of crops in Sahiwal, Okara, Multan, Eastern and Western Bar (Baran), have been severely affected due to lack of sufficient water.
India has also resumed the construction of Shahpurkandi dam on River Ravi, whose construction had been put on halt due to some disputes between the Punjab and Jummu and Kashmir authorities. It is expected to be completed by 2022-23 and after completion will drastically reduce the River Ravi water flowing in to Pakistan. India deems the water flowing into Pakistan is being wasted.