India can "continue with all works" related to the Kishenganga hydro-electric project in Jammu and Kashmir except any permanent work on the riverbed that may inhibit restoration of the river's full flow, the International Court of Arbitration has said.
In an interim ruling issued on Friday, the court in The Hague, which was approached by Pakistan, said it was necessary to lay down certain interim measures in order to "avoid prejudice to the final solution" of the dispute as provided under the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960.
While proceedings continued at the Court, the ruling said, it "is open to India to continue with all works relating to the Kishenganga Hydro-Electric Project" except "any permanent works on or above the Kishenganga-Neelum riverbed at the Gurez site that may inhibit the restoration of the full flow of that river to its natural channel" after the final verdict.
The ruling, a copy of which has been accessed by PTI, stated that India "could proceed with the construction of the sub-surface foundations" of the dam, "erect temporary cofferdams and operate the by-pass tunnel it has said to have completed", "temporarily dry out the riverbed of the Kishenganga-Neelum at the Gurez valley" and "excavate the riverbed."
The court said that, under the current timetable, it intended to give its final verdict "late in 2012 or early in 2013."
It said: "It follows that it cannot be 'necessary' to order a halt of any construction activity on the (Kishenganga project) that will take place after the issuance of the Court's final Award."
The interim ruling further said India "may utilise the temporary diversion tunnel it is said to have completed at the Gurez site, and may construct and complete temporary cofferdams to permit the operation of the temporary diversion tunnel."
The court gave its interim ruling in response to an appeal filed by Pakistan, which alleged India was diverting the flow of the river and violating the Indus Waters Treaty by going ahead with the project.
A statement issued by Pakistan's presidency late last night highlighted the court's direction that India should not go ahead with any permanent work that could affect the river flow after the final verdict but did not mention the fact that the court had ruled that India could continue all other works.
The interim ruling further said India and Pakistan should "arrange for periodic joint inspections of the dam site at Gurez in order to monitor" that the court's directive regarding permanent works was being implemented.
It said the two countries should submit by December 19 a "joint report setting forth the areas of agreement and any points of disagreement that may arise" regarding the implementation of its order.
Pakistan had informed the court in July that India could not divert the route of the Kishenganga-Neelum river under the Indus Waters Treaty.
Pakistan has claimed that the project would rob it of 15 % of its share of river waters. It also accused India of trying to divert the river in order to harm Pakistan's Neelum-Jhelum hydro-electric project.