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India to harness more water from Indus basin, but within terms of pact with Pak

The government has sought to use more water from Indus basin rivers, but within the limitations of a 56-year-old pact with Pakistan that has survived three wars and numerous bilateral bickering between the two neighbours.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2016 23:16 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta
India and Pakistan share the waters of six rivers under the Indus Waters Treaty that was signed in 1960.
India and Pakistan share the waters of six rivers under the Indus Waters Treaty that was signed in 1960.(HT File Photo)

The government has sought to use more water from Indus basin rivers, but within the limitations of a 56-year-old pact with Pakistan that has survived three wars and numerous bilateral bickering between the two neighbours.

The prime minister’s office set a December deadline for the Central Electricity Authority to complete the techno-economic appraisal — pending for more than a year — to check the viability of about half-a-dozen hydroelectric projects on the Chenab in consultation with the Central Water Commission.

These include the proposed 1,856MW Sawalkote hydel project near the Line of Control, the de facto border between the two countries, and the 540MW Kawar and 990MW Kirthai projects.

“This will be the first step towards ensuring speedy implementation of these projects, which can produce more than 5,000MW,” a senior water resources ministry official said.

“It generally takes anywhere between one and two years to get the techno-economic appraisal. After that the projects will have to get a host of clearances, including environment and forest.”

Read | Govt decides to fast-track irrigation projects in Indus basin

The move follows a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September on the World Bank-brokered Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. Considered among the most liberal water-sharing pacts, it gives control of Beas, Ravi and Sutlej to India and Indus, Chenab and Jhelum — three west-flowing rivers — to Pakistan.

Modi reviewed the treaty amid escalating tension with Pakistan after militants murdered 19 soldiers in an army base in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri.

Speculation swirled that the Indus treaty could become a casualty. But the government indicated India would use only its share of water for power and agriculture.

Read| Pakistan warns of action if India breaches Indus Waters Treaty

The water allotted to India from the western rivers has the potential to generate 18,569MW of hydropower. But the country has so far developed infrastructure to harness only about 3,500MW.

Besides, India can use water to irrigate 13.4 lakh acres. But is irrigating only 8 lakh acres.

“Developing infrastructure to use what is permissible is more than enough. About 133 million acre feet of water flow in the three western rivers and India can construct reservoirs to store up to 3.6 MAF under the treaty. But no storage facility has been developed so far,” said a ministry official.

Agencies have been told to coordinate with the Jammu and Kashmir government to identify areas where irrigation canals can be built as well as resolve issues stalling some of the power projects where work had started.

“The 1,000MW Pakaldul project was languishing because of contractual dispute with the state government. It will be re-tendered now,” an official said.

Also read | Reclaiming leverage in Indus basin cheaper than war with Pakistan