In recent years, four hydroelectric power projects Ratle (850MW), Miyar (120MW), Lower Kalnai (48MW) and Pakul Dul (1,000MW, to be increased to 1,500MW) initiated by India and being built on the western rivers, have propelled Pakistan's ministry of foreign affairs to raise objections and inform the National Assembly of "this violation of provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), 1960". This has happened despite the fact that India provided Pakistan with designs of the projects, as per provisions of the treaty, about a year ago.
Pakistan has specifically raised serious objections to the design of the Ratle project and minor ones about the other projects. Its main objection pertains to the building of storage capacity as a component of the projects, as it termed the "design parameters" a violation of the treaty. Seeking an amicable resolution of the issues at the level of the Pakistan Indus Commission, the objections were part of the agenda of the 109th four-day meeting last month of the Permanent Indus Commission of both countries in New Delhi.
accuses India of planning 33 hydroelectric projects on the western rivers to deny Pakistan of its "legitimate exclusive right on the waters of the western rivers". Pakistan, in order to safeguard its interests, raises specific objections to the commencement of any project that uses waters of the western rivers, assuming that under the bilateral treaty, waters of the western rivers - Indus, Jhelum and Chenab - were "exclusively allocated" to Pakistan.
To put Pakistan's viewpoint and concerns in perspective, it is imperative to focus on some salient features of the treaty. First, it allocates the water of the three western rivers to Pakistan, but allows India to tap the considerable hydroelectric potential of the Chenab and Jhelum before the rivers enter Pakistan. Second, the treaty allowed India to create storage on the western rivers of 1.25, 1.6, and 0.75 MAF (million acre feet) for general, power, and flood storages, respectively, amounting to total permissible storage of 3.6 MAF.
Third, the treaty does not require India to deliver any assured quantities of water to Pakistan. Instead, it requires India to let flow to Pakistan the water available in these rivers, excluding the limited use permitted to India by the treaty. Fourth, there are no quantitative limits to the hydroelectric power that India produces using the western rivers nor any limit to the number of run-of-the-river projects India can build.
Since hydroelectric power development does not consume water, the only issue is timing. Pakistan must realise that the overall effect of run-of-the-river hydel projects will have negligible delay as far as timing is concerned. For general, power, and flood storages amounting to total permissible storage of 3.6 MAF, India has built no storage and is yet to fully utilise its entitlement.
Further, of the 1.34 MAF permitted for irrigation, India is using only 0.792 MAF. Of an estimated potential of 18,653 MW of the western rivers, only projects worth 2,324 MW have been commissioned so far and another 2,018 MW are under construction.
The treaty requires India to let flow to Pakistan the water available in these rivers, excluding the limited use permitted to India by the treaty. Thus, reduced flows into Pakistan from time to time are not the result of any violation of the treaty by India or any action to divert such flows from the western rivers.
To prevent Pakistan from raising this issue time and again, it is important to convey to the former that as per one estimate, India in general and Jammu and Kashmir in particular suffer an annual loss of Rs 6,000 crore, a calculation based on the perceived benefits that are denied to J&K from clauses and restrictions laid down in the treaty that deny it from storing water (for generating power) and from diverting flows for irrigational needs.
J&K is, in fact, an energy-deficit state and according to the latest Economic Survey (2012-13), only 23.22% of the required power was being generated within the state, while the rest had to be imported. The state purchases around 1,400 MW from the Northern Grid and spends Rs 3,600 crore annually on meeting its growing demands, which peaked at 2,600 MW. Thus, given the fact that 'potentially' it can generate approximately 20,000 MW from the rivers and many cascading tributaries that run through its valleys and hills, its capacity has been restricted to mere 2,324 MW.
Notwithstanding the increasing power requirement of the state and economic loss that the state is enduring, there is a need to take a lesson from the recent catastrophic floods that devastated vast areas of the fragile Uttarakhand ecology. This was attributed to a great extent to the mismanagement and operation of the projects on the Ganga. We must prevent such a situation in J&K and preserve the environment and forest cover. It, therefore, is all-important that a study must be undertaken of the cumulative impacts of a large number of projects being planned on the Jhelum and Chenab rivers.
The writer is an expert on the Indus Water Treaty