Apr 13, 2010

Sharing is redeeming

Excerpts from speech by High Commissioner of India at the function organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations and Pakistan-India Citizens Friendship Forum on April 3, 2010

The issue of water sharing that arose between our countries in 1947, was settled with the coming into force of The Indus Waters Treaty in 1960. This treaty was the result of 8 years of painstaking negotiations carried out by India and Pakistan with the good offices of the World Bank. The Treaty was voluntarily accepted by the two sides as fair and equitable. The thoroughness with which it deals with various aspects of water sharing is a testimony to the hard work put in by the negotiators of both sides to produce an enduring framework. It laid down the rights and obligations of both sides in relation to the use of waters of the Indus system of rivers.

Those who question the fairness of the Indus Waters Treaty to Pakistan need to note that it assigned 80 percent share of water of the Indus system of rivers to Pakistan. The Treaty gave the use of Eastern Rivers (Sutlej, Beas and Ravi) — with a mean flow of 33 MAF — to India, while giving the use of the Western Rivers, viz. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — with a mean flow of 136 MAF — to Pakistan. Since Pakistan was dependent on water supplies from the Eastern Rivers until the 15th of August 1947, India also agreed to pay a sum of 62 million Pounds Sterling to Pakistan to build replacement canals from the Western Rivers and other sources. These were clearly not the gestures of an upper riparian bent upon depriving the lower riparian of water, as is alleged by some today. The Treaty also permitted limited use of water of Western Rivers by India as follows: -

Domestic use: - This includes use for drinking, washing, bathing and sanitation etc.

Non consumptive use: - This covers any control or use of water for navigation, floating of timber or other property, flood control and fishing etc.

Agricultural use: - India can draw water from the Western Rivers in terms of maximum permissible Irrigated Crop Area. The total area permitted to be irrigated by India is 1.34 million acres.

Generation of Hydroelectric Power :- India can use water from the Western Rivers for run -of- the river hydroelectric projects as well as for hydroelectric projects incorporated in a storage work, but only to the extent permitted in the provisions regulating storage of water by India from the Western Rivers.

Storage of water by India on the Western Rivers: - The Indus Waters Treaty allows India storage capacity on Western Rivers to the tune of 3.6 MAF, in addition to the storage that already existed on these rivers before the coming into force of the Treaty. Out of this, 1.25 MAF is general storage. The remaining quantity is split between 1.6 MAF for generation of hydroelectricity and 0.75 MAF for flood control. In terms of rivers, 0.4 MAF storage is allowed on the Indus, 1.5 on Jhelum and 1.7 on Chenab.

In order to ensure that implementation of the Treaty received constant attention, a Permanent Indus Commission was created, with a senior and widely experienced Commissioner for Indus Waters from each side. The Commission is charged with the responsibility to establish and maintain co-operative arrangements for implementation of the Treaty, to promote co-operation between the Parties in the development of the waters of the Rivers and to settle promptly any questions arising between the Parties. Each Commissioner for Indus Waters serves as a regular channel of communication in all matters relating to implementation of the Treaty. The Commission undertakes a general tour of inspection of the rivers once in five years and special tours in the interim. The Commission meets regularly at least once a year and in the interim as required. It has so far undertaken a total of 111 tours, both in India and Pakistan, and has held 104 meetings. The Commission has shown tremendous potential in ensuring smooth functioning of the Treaty. In the 50 years of the Treaty, only once was an issue, viz. Baglihar, referred to a neutral expert. We believe that the potential of the Permanent Indus Commission can and ought to be used more effectively. In fact, we could even have the Commission sit in the nature of a consultative dispute avoidance body and take the views of experts – national and international – with a view to bringing up-to - date technology to the notice of the Commission to help it reach correct and acceptable solutions.

I shall now deal with the apprehensions, misconceptions, misinformation and allegations pertaining to India that characterize the debate on water scarcity in Pakistan.

The Indus Waters Treaty does not require India to deliver any stipulated quantities of water to Pakistan in the Western Rivers. Instead, it requires us to let flow to Pakistan the water available in these rivers, excluding the limited use permitted to India by the Treaty, for which we do not need prior agreement of Pakistan. Reduced flows into Pakistan from time to time are not the result of violation of Indus Waters Treaty by India or any action on our part to divert such flows or to use more than our assigned share of water from Western Rivers. Water flows in rivers depend, inter alia, on melting of snow and quantum of rainfall. India itself suffered serious draught conditions in 2009, with around 250 districts bearing the brunt of draught. Rainfall during the monsoon season was 20 percent less than normal countrywide, with many states in the North experiencing a much higher percentage of shortfall. Even winter rains have fallen far short of normal. The quantum of water flow in Western Rivers, as indeed in any other river, varies from year to year, dipping in certain years and recovering in some subsequent years. Permit me to illustrate this point by using the flows data in respect of the three rivers.

Let us start with the river Chenab by using the average flows data for the month of September over a period of ten years since 1999 at six recording points, beginning deep on the Indian side at Udaipur and moving westwards to Marala, where Chenab enters Pakistan.

The annual flow in Jhelum at Uri, which was 8.29 MAF in 1997, dipped to as low as 3.07 MAF in 1999, but has subsequently recovered to register figures of 6.37 MAF in 2002, 6.31 MAF in 2005 and 5.67 MAF in 2008. The June to December flow in Jhelum at Uri shows the same pattern.

The data that I have provided in respect of flows in all the three Western Rivers clearly demonstrates that these flows have followed a curve moving up and down, depending upon climatic factors from year to year, rather than showing progressive decline, which would be the case if there were any truth in the allegations of India building infrastructure to progressively deprive Pakistan of its share of water.

One also hears the accusation that India is building hundreds of dams/ hydroelectric projects to deny Pakistan its share of water. This does not correspond to the reality on the ground. There are no quantitative limits on the hydroelectricity that India can produce using the Western Rivers. There is also no limit to the number of run-of- the river projects that India can build. However, India has so far undertaken a limited number of projects. We have provided information to Pakistan, as per the Treaty, in respect of 33 projects. Out of these, 14 are in operation, 13 are under construction, 2 are still at the proposal stage, 3 have been dropped or deferred and work on one project stands suspended. Out of these 33 projects, as many as 20 have a capacity of 10 MW or less. Projects identified for implementation in the coming years number 22. This certainly does not make for hundreds of dams/ hydroelectric projects.

India had communicated information concerning Baglihar project on Chenab to Pakistan as early as in 1992. Pakistan’s objections were referred to a neutral expert in 2005 at the request of Pakistan. The expert upheld India’s design approach and suggested only minor changes in the scope of construction. Pakistan subsequently objected to the initial filling of the Baglihar reservoir. However, this was done by us in keeping with the Treaty provisions. In fact, the Pakistan Indus Commissioner was invited to India at his request in July, 2008 to be briefed about the procedure of initial filling. The actual filling was done in August the same year within the time window specified in the Treaty.

The issue of water scarcity in Pakistan cannot be analyzed fully without looking at the picture in the large part of the Indus basin – around 65 percent - that lies in Pakistan’s territory or territory controlled by Pakistan.

According to the report “Pakistan’s Water Economy” issued by the World Bank in 2005, salinity also remains a major problem in Pakistan. According to the same report, much of the water infrastructure in Pakistan is in a state of disrepair. Water loss between canal heads and farms is reported to be significant, as high as 30 percent. The report further states that Pakistan has only 150 cubic meters water storage capacity per capita as against 5000 cubic meters in the US and Australia and 2200 cubic meters in China. Pakistan can store barely 30 days of water in the Indus basin. The report points out that “Relative to other arid countries, Pakistan has very little storage capacity. If no new storage is built, canal diversions will remain stagnant at about 104 MAF and the shortfall will increase by about 12% over the next decade.”

The Indus Waters Treaty is an example of mutually beneficial co-operation between India and Pakistan for the last 50 years. It has withstood the test of time. Article VII of the Treaty, which deals with future co-operation, recognizes the common interest of both sides in the optimum development of the rivers and lists out the avenues of future co-operation. We need to adhere to the spirit of co-operation, inherent in the Treaty, in ensuring its implementation and to identify further areas of co-operation within its framework. Let me end with the hope that the Indus Waters Treaty, which has completed its first fifty years successfully, will continue to guide us on water sharing in the future.

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