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Neutral expert clears Baglihar project

Indus Waters Treaty not violated, India can use modern tech to build dam on Chenab, reports Nilova R Chaudhury.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 03:47 IST

A neutral expert, appointed by the World Bank, has cleared the Baglihar hydropower project being built on the Chenab river in Jammu and Kashmir, overruling most of Pakistan's objections to it.

The final report of neutral expert Raymond Lafitte, giving his verdict on the matter, which will be binding on both India and Pakistan, was handed over to diplomats of both countries in Bern, Switzerland, on Monday.

"Our position has been completely vindicated," a senior official at the Ministry of External Affairs said.

In 2005, Pakistan had sought the intervention of the World Bank, third party to the IWT, saying the Baglihar project violated the Indus Water Treaty (IWT), signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan on the sharing of river waters. Pakistan had objected to the design and height of the dam.

"The verdict shows that there is no violation of the treaty by India," said Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz.

Not only has Lafitte upheld India's right to construct the dam, he has permitted India to use 'modern technology' to do so -- which also Pakistan had objected to. An official statement said Lafitte "has emphasised the need to incorporate state-of-the-art technology for projects built under the IWT for reasons of safety and optimal utilisation of the waters".

Under the IWT, India got rights to use the waters of the three eastern tributaries of the Indus river: the Beas, Sutlej and Ravi. Pakistan got the western rivers: Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.

But Lafitte has asked India to reduce the height of the 'free board', a wall at the head of the dam designed to reduce spillage, from 4.5 metres to three metres. According to officials, no reduction in the height of the dam, which will remain at 840 metres, has been sought.

India had offered a similar reduction, according to Soz, during talks earlier, but Islamabad chose to seek the World Bank's intervention.

(Inputs from Anil Anand)

First Published: Feb 13, 2007 01:59 IST