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Baglihar project: Pak may go to Court of Arbitration

Pakistan is considering moving court on the design of spillways of Baglihar project.

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After initial claims of victory and promise to accept the World Bank neutral expert's verdict on Baglihar power project, Pakistan is reportedly considering the option of going for Court of Arbitration over Raymond Lafitte's decision to approve the spillway gates of the dam, which Islamabad claims would help India regulate the flow of water.

"Pakistan is considering moving the Court of Arbitration on the design of spillways of Baglihar hydropower project as Lafitte didn't buy Islamabad's point of view on the issue," an unnamed senior government official was quoted as saying by The News.

<b1>"A team of legal experts has started working out a case on the design of spillway gates keeping in view the verdict of neutral expert," the official said.

The neutral expert in his final determination upheld India's point of view on the design of spillway gates.

"As India can still regulate water of Chenab River through spillway gates, therefore legal experts have started examining the decision in which neutral expert has held that spillway gates are in conformity with international practice and state-of-the-art," the official said.

Soon after the verdict was announced on February 12 Pakistan's power and water minister Liaqat Jatoi has said it was a victory for Pakistan.

He said the verdict was binding on both sides and hoped India would implement it.

Jatoi has said "we will not ask the neutral expert again to review its decision on spillways, but under the treaty, the Court of Arbitration is the next forum wherein the case would be listened and decided".

Under the treaty, the Court of Arbitration would comprise seven members. India and Pakistan would select two members each and three members jointly.

The expert's acceptance of the spillway gates at the bottom of the dam meant that he agreed with the Indian contention that the gates were needed to clear the silt which was a common feature in reservoirs built on Himalayan rivers.

The spillgates will allow India to de-silt the dam periodically to enhance its life.

Pakistan's main objection about the spillgates was that they could give India the ability to release water in large volumes in times of war, a contention the neutral expert reportedly said did not fall within his purview.

India has announced the deadline for completion of Baglihar hydropower project by December 2007.

First Published: Feb 14, 2007 17:27 IST