The river-water issue is one of the most grievous problems which would never let India and Pakistan come close to each other if not timely and properly taken care of. India is curtailing the down stream water coming towards Pakistan by making dams at various points; and all this is being done in violation of the Indus Water Treaty. Currently there are three major water disputes, which include Baglihar Hydroelectric Plant, Kishenganga Hydroelectric Plant and Wuller Barrage.
The Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project on the River Neelum is located near the Line of Control in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The project also envisages diversion of River Neelum. The River Neelum is called Kishenganga River when it passes through India. The water of River Kishenganga River is reserved for Pakistan’s Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric Project, work on which started in 1989. The diversion of water in Kishenganga project will decrease Water flow at Neelum-Jhelum project and generation capacity of this project will reduce by 20%. Moreover It will adversely affect agriculture in Neelum Valley and Muzaffarabad District of Pakistan. The Baglihar Hydroelectric Plant is located on River Chenab and its construction plan was communicated by India in 1992. It was commissioned in 2008. During its initial filling, India again violated the clauses of the Treaty by not filling the dam in stipulated timeframe and by not ensuring requisite inflow at Marla Head Works of Pakistan. The drastic reduction of inflow at Marla resulted in non-availability of irrigation water for paddy crops in Marla command Canals area covering over 10,000,000 acres of land. The Wullar Barrage Project is located on the River Jhelum. The construction of this barrage would provide India the control over River Jhelum which they may use to deprive Pakistan of water of River Jhelum during winter seasons. It is feared that the water of River Neelum diverted towards Wullar Lake would be consumed within Wullar Lake and will not go in River Jhelum as India is also planning to construct a barrage on Wullar Lake.
Moreover India is planning a number of other hydroelectric projects of various capacities on the rivers reserved for Pakistan .These plans shall further choke the water flow after their completion. These include 24 projects on River Chenab, 52 on River Jhelum and 18 on River Indus. Thus Pakistan’s agriculture and hydropower generation is under severe threat. The construction of all these three dams is in complete contradiction to the Indus Waters Treaty. Though Permanent Indus Water Commission, comprising of two Commissioners, one from each country, is trying its best to settle down the issues but it has yet not succeeded in reaching any permanent solution. India terms the flow of water recorded by Pakistan as under reported. In the Indus Water Commissioner level meeting held in the last week of March 2010 at Lahore Pakistan suggested the installation of Telemetric System for measurement of flow of Indus System of Rivers, particularly on the Western Rivers to ensure the transparency in recording the flow of water but India strongly opposed the idea.
The Indus Basin comprises the River Indus and five main rivers, namely Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. The total area of the Indus Basin is roughly 450,000 square miles, most of which lies in Pakistan. In Pakistan there exists one of the most highly developed canal irrigation system and approximately 37 Million Acres of land is dependent on the flow of waters of the Indus System of Rivers. At the time of independence major portion of the Indus Basin 31 Million Acres formed part of Pakistan, but the control of most of existing structures on the rivers of Indus Basin fell into the Indian hands. It was certainly an unfair demarcation and its consequences surfaced soon after when India started interfering with the waters flowing downstream by stopping waters on rivers Ravi and Sutlej which were irrigating 1.6 Million Acres in Pakistan. To save its fertile lands from draught and famine Pakistan had to bring the issue to the notice of the international authorities. In 1951 World Bank offered its services for resolution of the issue. The efforts ultimately resulted into an agreement between Pakistan and India in the shape of Indus Waters Treaty signed in 1960. As per Indus Waters Treaty, India got the complete rights on the Eastern Rivers whereas Pakistan was given the rights on Western Rivers.
According to the Indus Water Treaty, the Indian authorities are obliged to provide information of their water projects to Pakistan six months before the start of construction. Unfortunately in case of the above mentioned three dams India started work without providing requisite information. Also, the information, whenever provided, was normally incomplete. Another painful thing regarding the construction of the Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project near the Line of Control in Indian Occupied Kashmir is that the Indians are cutting trees in IOK relentlessly; resulting in creating the problem of water shed which is directly affecting Pakistan. Despite repeated complaints India has never responded positively to any of these complaints.
The diversion of Pakistani river waters is not only the violation of basic human rights but also the violation of the Indus Water Treaty. It seems that India wants to change the fertile green lands of Pakistan into barren lands. Such stubborn attitude on the part of Indian policy makers is simply widening the distances between the two countries. There is a dire need to resolve the water-issues at priority basis otherwise peace and progress will remain a far cry for the region.