A Swiss neutral expert, Raymond Lafitte, is due to deliver his final verdict in Switzerland on Monday on the Baglihar Hydropower Project(BHP). His verdict on the technical aspects of the project is binding on both countries, senior officials said.
Lafitte was appointed by the World Bank in May 2005 to resolve problems between India and Pakistan concerning the power project on the Chenab river. Pakistan went to the World Bank seeking the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve the dispute.
Under provisions of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan, either country could seek the World Bank’s intervention in the appointment of a neutral expert to resolve technical disputes on aspects of river sharing.
A draft resolution circulated by Lafitte in November 2006 was widely viewed as favourable to India’s claims. Reports emanating from Islamabad on Saturday suggest Islamabad is gearing up for a verdict that could go against it.
According to Pakistan, the project does not conform to the norms of the IWT and can cause flooding. India says the dam being constructed on the Chenab for the power project, expected to initially generate 400 MW of power for Jammu and Kashmir, adheres to the Treaty’s norms.
Work on the dam site, 160kms north of Jammu in the Doda district, has continued while Lafitte heard arguments from officials, lawyers and other technical experts from both countries.
The basic dispute has been over the design of the dam, particularly its height, proposed at 144 metres. The head race tunnel, projected to be two kilometers long, with a diameter of ten metres will, according to Pakistan, change the flow of the river.
Under terms of the IWT, India was given rights to use the waters of the three eastern rivers (tributaries) of the Indus river basin; the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi. Pakistan was given rights over the western rivers; Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
Cited as a model of cooperation between the two hostile neighbours, the IWT has held over 46 years, despite three wars.