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ICA decision on Kishanganga project.

Byline: Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

In May 2010, under Article IX and Annexure G of the Indus Water Treat (IWT)-1960, Pakistan approached the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) against the construction of Kishanganga Hydro-electric project in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). In October, 2011, ICA also known as the Permanent Court of Arbitration, issued stay order for further construction of the project.

However, in February 2013, the ICA, issued an interim order that, India could divert minimum amount of water for generation of electricity. Later, after nine-months, it gave its verdict on December 20, 2013. It was a seven member Court of Arbitration, chaired by Judge Stephen M. Schwebel (US), the former President of the International Court of Justice. While announcing its final verdict, ICA has allowed India to go ahead with the construction of the controversial Kishanganga Hydroelectric Power Project. As per the decision of the Court, India will have to allow 50% flow of water down-stream in the Neelum River, after it completes the Kishinganga project; a storage and divergence of water of the Neelum River. The ICA has also ruled that, "India cannot take the water on a very low level in the dam." In India, the Neelum River, a tributary of Jhelum River is known as the Kishinganga. It flows from Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) to Azad Kashmir and joins the Jhelum River at Muzaffabad.

India started construction of this project in 2007 and likely to complete it by 2016. The project will produce 330 MW electricity for India. It includes construction of a dam near Gureize area and then power project near Bandipora 60 kms from Srinagar, in IOK, after diverting the water. As per designs, this project would be 121 feet tall concrete-face rock-fill dam, diverting the water of Kishanganga River south through a 24 KM tunnel. The tunnel will send water to underground power house at Bandipora, thereafter; the water will be discharged into Wular Lake. Compare to 330 MW hydroelectric Kishanganga project, Pakistan is on its half way to construct 969 MW, Neelum-Jehlum hydro-electric power project on the same river (Neelum). Planning for this project started somewhere in late 1990s, however, work on the project started in 2008. The project is likely to be completed by 2016, as directed by incumbent Prime Minister, during his visit of the site in June 2013. Pakistan objected to the Kishanganga project by India on the ground that, after its completion, there would be drastic reduction in the supply of downstream water in the Neelum River. Pakistani technical experts were also of the view that, "diversion of Kishanganga near Bandipurah area in Occupied Kashmir and installation of power house gates on lower level was violation of Indus Water Treaty and demanded that the project should be closed or its design must be changed.

The project would affect Pakistan in two main aspects. Firstly, there would be severe water shortages for the vast Kashmiri population residing all along the Neelum River, in the Neelum Valley. The locals of the area make use of this water for domestic purposes as well as for the agricultural purposes. Indian plan of diverting this water will deprive the locals from this most essential source of earning and usage, which may leads to an internal displacement, causing a humanitarian crises. As experienced in last six-decades, UN has not been sympathetic to address the Kashmiri's grievances to include; their migrations, displacements and human rights violation by India.

The second aspect is the construction of Neelum-Jhelum Hydro Electric power project, which upon its completion would produce 969 MW of electricity, to the energy deficient state of Pakistan, particularly for the locals of Azad Kashmir, as promised by Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif. The Kishanganga project is going to seriously affect this Pakistani project as far as the requisite amount of water is concerned, indeed, to run this project for its optimum usage. As per Pakistani technical team, the Kishanganga Project would cause 33% decrease in the water for Neelum-Jhelum Hydroelectric power project. This would reduce 700 million units energy generation of the Neelum-Jhelum project. Indeed, the "The gross capacity of the reservoir is 18.80 million cubic meters or 14,900 acre feet with dead storage of 8,755 acre feet."

Surprisingly, upon announcement of the verdict, both, Pakistan and India are claiming their victories. As per the Indian representative in The Hague, the final award of ICA "specifies that 9 cumecs (flow rate as measured in cubic meter per second), of natural flow of water must be maintained in the Kishanganga River at all times to maintain the environment downstream. Indeed, this is much lower than the 100 cumecs of natural flow that Pakistan wanted to be maintained at all the time. In a way, India considers that ICA has upheld its view point by allowing diversion of half of the river's water for Indian Kishinganga project. On the other hand, the Minister of Water, Khwaja Asif, has declared the verdict as a, `big victory' for Pakistan. He said that, "Pakistan has achieved a big victory (as) International Court of Arbitration has accepted Pakistan's right as a riparian state to waters of Kishanganga. Similarly Pakistan's right over waters of Jhelum and Chenab rivers is also established. The decision will safeguard our water rights in future also."

There were similar views of both sides after the verdict on the construction of Baglihar Dam; the Baglihar Hydroelectric Power Project by India in 2007. The famous verdict of Prof Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss Engineer, on February 12, 2007, asked for only minor adjustments in the height of the dam, which already had completed by then. Indeed, these statements of victory or defeat over the verdict of ICA are merely for the consumption of masses on both sides, in a way just the political rhetoric. The realities may not be the same. As was in the case of Baglihar Dam, the decision of ICA is not binding on any party, as the UN resolutions on Kashmir. It is indeed, the might is right. India has been manipulating the water of western rivers ever since 1980s. Pakistani water experts either deliberately ignored the Indian strategy or were unaware of the happenings. Even, the Indus Water Treaty-1960 has some inherent flaws, which India is exploiting ever since.

Besides, there is no neutral international mechanism to ensure the implementation of the decisions of ICA or other experts like Prof Raymond Lafitte. Resultantly, being the upper riparian, India does, what it desire. India never took Pakistani authorities into confidence while initiating such projects. In most of the cases, Pakistan learnt about the Indian dams, hydro-electric projects and water diversions on Western rivers only after these were half way or in their last stages of completion. At that level, even the international arbitrators get convinced about the expenditures incurred on the projects by India. Baglihar Dam and the Kishinganga project are the recent examples. While sticking to the IWT-1960, India wants to get maximum benefits from the Pakistani share of rivers.

As most of analysis indicates, the Pakistani Indus Commissioner(s) have been lackluster and non-respondent in their assessments and initiations of timely action to Indian water manipulation of the Western rivers, where Pakistan enjoyed exclusive rights. In the so far visits of Indus Commissioners, there has been only good-will for India with OK reports. Irrespective, who won or lost in the current verdict of ICA, it is felt that, Pakistani Indus Commission has to be reinforced with a dedicated team of water experts and the qualified people of the international law. Besides, there is a need of dedicated intelligence system for the monitoring of the water catchment areas in the IOK.

Pakistan had enough from the India as far as western rivers are concerned. While continuing its violation of IWT-1960, India is planning to construct more dams on all three Pakistani rivers. To be futuristic and responsive, the Ministry of Water and Power and Indus Commission has to re-evaluate their performance and calculate their capabilities, whether it can compete and put a befitting response to Indian water terrorism in the coming years? Let us take timely decisions and actions on the issues of national interests, rather being remorseful later and asking international community for salvage upon Indian prejudices.
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Publication:Frontier Post (Peshawar, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 24, 2013
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