Mar 24, 2009

Wasted opportunities

The largest contiguous irrigation system developed during the British Raj within the Indus River Basin became a victim of the partition, as many of the canal head-works remained with India. The ad-hoc division led to a serious water conflict, when India stopped the water supply to Pakistan on April 1, 1948. The World Bank played facilitated diplomatic negotiations between India and Pakistan, backed with technical expertise. The resulting agreement, known as the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), was signed in 1960. Under this treaty, Pakistan obtained exclusive rights to use 135 million acres-feet (MAF) of water of the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. India retained the rights to use 33 MAF of the three eastern rivers: Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. The Bank also created the Indus Basin Development Fund (IBDF) of $895 million for Pakistan to develop dams and link canals on the three western rivers. (India contributed $174 million to the IBDF.) Under a comprehensive master plan for the utilisation of its allocated share of the water, India constructed link canals and dams having a storage capacity of 17 MAF. In Punjab state alone, this led to the sown area increasing by 54 percent. Canal water supply was supplemented by simultaneously installation of tube-wells supported by power supply through hydroelectric projects on the rivers. Punjab and Haryana, once deficit in food grain, emerged as India’s “‘bread basket” in the mid-1970s. In Pakistan, on the other hand, poor water policies led to salinity and water-logging problems. Meanwhile, due to high sedimentation, the three dams on the Pakistani side have seen their storage capacity reduced to from 16 MAF to 12 . At the same time, Pakistan allowed 35 MAF of water to escape into the sea every year. Pakistan’s ratio of storage to water flow is only 11 percent, against India’s 52 percent on the allocated eastern rivers. India has a hydropower potential of 150,000 megawatt and is ranked fifth in the world. With the focus of India’s hydroelectric policy on the eastern rivers, the country has developed hydroelectric projects of about 12,500 MW, or almost 80 percent of the total potential of the eastern rivers basin. These hydro projects are mostly in Himachal Pradesh, which is now ranked as the second-richest state because of its supply of cheap hydroelectric power to other states. (In contrast, the Brahmaputra Basin, which has the potential of 66,000 MW, has remained relatively untapped because of India’s priority to the harnessing of its western rivers.) After the IWT, India achieved the capacity of 4,181 MW on the River Beas alone, which is only 470 kilometres long. In comparison, the Pakistani rivers yield only 5,200 MW, against the identified potential of 38,000 MW. In 2002, the date for completion of projects having the gross capacity of 1,350 MW was fixed as 2006 by the ministry of water and power after deliberation two-and-half-a-years. But after seven years since then only one hydropower project, of 81 MW, was added. Pakistan faces a severe energy crisis, but instead of accelerating the pace of on-going hydropower projects, it is going to buy electricity from IPPs (independent power plants). IPP thermal plants are the most expensive option and have a high environmental cost. WAPDA has to buy electricity from IPPs at the Rs16 per unit while hydropower hardly costs Rs0.60 per unit. The Planning Commission and the implementing bodies have delayed the development of hydropower, and given advantage to India on the Indus basin. According to the IWT, the country, which first completes its project on a river will get the complete rights of that river. India’s planning commission has prepared a roadmap for acceleration of economic development, with a 50,000 MW hydroelectricity initiative and a plan to develop 16,000 MW in Kashmir on the western rivers of the Indus Basin. According to IWT annexes India can store water on its western rivers for several purposed, including for hydropower, but only up to 0.40 MAF on the Indus, 1.50 MAF on Jhelum and 1.70 MAF on Chenab basins. Nevertheless, this overambitious plan can potentially lead to conflict between the hostile neighbours. Talks to clarify such sticky issues are essential. To settle disputes promptly, the Indus Water Commission (IWC) was established in both countries in accordance with of the treaty and its annexes. The objective of the commission is to provide a platform for better coordination and exchange of all hydrological data. This includes daily discharge data of river and tributary flows at all observation sites, daily rainfall, snow, and data of irrigated cropped area as defined in the catchments of the three western rivers in Indian Held Kashmir. The commission has been given the right to determine its own procedures for building trust. Unfortunately, even after 49 years this institution has failed to build the capacity to settle the disputes and to develop a fair, transparent mechanism of enforcement of the treaty. The IWT has been a success, despite the ongoing rivalry between India and Pakistan. With water becoming increasingly scarce, it is essential to transform the commission into a well-endowed and effective technical body. It must reinforce real-time monitoring technologies to check the status of water quality and for quantity use of satellites to supplement ground information. Satellite altimetry technology is widely used now to measure surface water quantity. In Strymonas River basin that is shared by three European countries, the quantity of water for irrigation system is measured with the help of modern technologies, including satellite imagery analysis, to optimised agriculture production. The World Bank had proved an honest broker in the IWT. Even today, the Bank supports a series of trans-boundary water issues with diligence and unbiased reporting for all stakeholders of shared waters, particularly in the establishment of the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) and Danube River Basin. The NBI is sharing substantial socioeconomic benefits for promotion of regional peace and security among ten most water deficient and poor African countries depending on the Nile River. Bank has also developed a shared vision programme that focuses on building institutions, sharing data and information and providing training to develop water utilisation capacity. International bodies such as the World Bank ought to help rebuild the Indus Water Commission to build the trust and to avert any serious conflict between the two atomic powers. Arshad H Abbasi

No comments:

Post a Comment