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Source: www.asiaecon.org |

FIRST COME FIRST SERVE: KASHMIR WATERS


  India and Pakistan are separately aiming to build large hydro-electric projects just 70 kilometers apart, on the same fast-flowing water of their respective sides of the Kishenganga river in Kashmir. Their competing behavior is viewed upon as an expensive winner-takes-all race.


India and Pakistan are separately aiming to build large hydro-electric projects just 70 kilometers apart, on the same fast-flowing water of their respective sides of the Kishenganga river in Kashmir. Their competing behavior is viewed upon as an expensive winner-takes-all race.

The country whose project is completed first, will get the complete rights of this river, according to the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) signed between the two countries in 1960.  Both sides have taken up the gamble and accelerated construction work, despite the fear of losing billions of dollars and possible international awkwardness.

The IWT treaty has withstood many conflicts and two wars between the two countries. However, the situation seems to be altering. The increase in demand for energy, and the rapid economic growth rate of both countries is changing the situation by spiring the exploitation of the river to the last drop, even if that means violating the IWT. Riparian water, as distinguished from flood water, is the water that rests below the highest line of the normal flow of the river or stream. Pakistan, being the lower riparian state, faces therefore, a geographical disadvantage .

The Indian project will curb water flow to the Pakistani project by 30%, affecting the local flora and fauna due to diversion of water from its original course. Pakistan thus fears, that once India’s Kishenganga project is complete, it will have a devastating effect on the PAK’s own hydro-power plans, the local economy and on the ecology. According to Pakistan, the Indian project will negatively affect 133,209 hectares of agricultural land in the Neelum Valley and the Muzaffarabad district.

Pakistan says this is an abrupt violation of the Indus water treaty, by virtue of which India should not be allowed to stem water flow below 55,000 cusecs. Pakistan demands that India must compensate for the loss of over 0.2 million acre feet, a measure of large volumes of water. According to Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW), an economic think-tank, the Indian water stoppage has inflicted a loss of $1.5 billion on Pakistan, with the prospect of damages growing by the day. PEW president Murtaza Mughal said that: “Over five million acres [2 million hectare] of cotton and sugarcane are facing devastation and if closure of the Chenab continues, the winter crops, especially wheat, will be hit, which will have serious political and monetary consequences”. 

The people of Kashmir are clearly the victims of the IWT. According to them, the violations has made them a sort of a sacrificial goat. Moreover, to the IWT prohibits Kashmir from storing water for electricity generation or irrigation, thus Kashmir annually looses 60 billion Indian rupees (US$1.3 billion) on account of these prohibitions.

Last year, the Human Rights Society (HRS) of Pakistan filed a petition with the Islamabad High Court, requesting the government to submit a report on the impact of Indian dams on local agriculture and the disruption of river flow. HRS chairman Kowkab Iqbal claimed that India was using 80% of the water in the Jhelum and constructing 62 water reservoirs, including the Baghlihar and Kishenganga dams, creating a drought-like situation in Pakistan According to analysts, Pakistan’s water availability has decreased to 1,200 cubic meters per person from 5,000 cubic meters in 1947, and is forecast to plunge to 800 cubic meters by 2020.

Considering the unpleasant history between the two countries and the fact that both are nuclear powers, a conflict of this sort could pose serious threats to the international community. An intermediary solution must be proposed promptly to avoid the conflict from escalating into a major catastrophe.

 

Source: www.AsiaEcon.org

Source: www.asiaecon.org |


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