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April 6, 2012

Track-II: Pakistan, India move to avert water war

April 6, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and India have agreed in principle of a need to set up an independent office of the Indus Water Commission (IWC) comprising neutral experts from outside the South Asian region with an unblemished record and integrity to avert wars on water issues between the two neighbourly nuclear states.

The understanding was reached during a dialogue on strategic relations including water disputes under the track-II diplomacy held in New Delhi on March 28-30

Both sides also developed a experts from various international agencies such as the Work Bank, the UNEP and the EU. This independent commission of experts shall work directly under the UN to monitor and promote sustainable development in Kashmir and HP (Himachal Pradesh).

The independent IWC will also arrange real time data of minor, major tributaries and at all headworks, dams by website including three dimensional models of dams -- a three-dimensional model to represent geometric data of dams (flood storage+ ROR [3] Hydropower projects) for clarity of the global community.

Both sides also agreed for installation of satellite based real-time telemetry system in Indian-held Kashmir at a minimum 100 locations for monitoring water quality and quantity. This would also help remove mistrust on data exchange between the two countries.

The special debate was on water issues held wit Dr Axel Harneit-Sievers, Germany in the chair and attended by Ramaswamy R Iyer, former Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, India, Arshad H Abbasi, Water and energy expert, and Salman Haider, former Foreign Secretary.

The session ended with the outcome of a set of strong and applicable recommendations from both sides that the two countries should first erase the mistrust on water data pleading for the installation of telemetry system in IHK at a minimum 100 locations in trans-boundary rivers for monitoring water quality and quantity.

According to the cope of the outcomes of the

dialogue of which a copy is available with The News, Arshad H Abbasi, water and energy expert associated with SDPI prevailed and succeeded to safeguard the Pakistan water interests with convincing arguments owing to which the Indian side acknowledged that it should be mandatory and important to setup dam safety measures in consultation with Pakistan when Abbasi drew the attention of Indian experts to the fact that India has been planning to start more than 67 dams for hydropower generation since long and all these dams fall under the category of large dams. Unfortunately, India's dam-failure record has been the worst, as nine of its dams have collapsed so far. J&K area is earthquake prone hence a minor failure can result into a catastrophe for the downstream areas.

It has also been agreed upon that Article VI of the Indus Waters Treaty explicitly elaborates the need and compulsion to exchange information and data related to the projects to be installed on the Indus River. Besides the parameters defined in the treaty, India and Pakistan are bound to exchange such information/data under the obligation of the commission on large dams as members of the commission.

It was also agreed during the special debate on water issues that environmental threats do not respect national borders. During the last three decades, the watershed in IHK has badly degraded. To rehabilitate watershed in IHK and Himachal Pradesh, both countries are to take initiative for joint watershed management.

Arshad Abbasi during the dialogue suggested that to rehabilitate watershed in IHK and HP, an environmental impact assessment is the best instrument to assess the possible negative impact that a proposed project may have on the indigenous environment, together with water flow in rivers. He also told during the debate that the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Trans-boundary Context provides the best legal framework for Trans-boundary EIA for sustainable flow in Indus River System, so that India should share TEIA before physical execution of any project including hydropower.

Both sides also developed consensus that the glaciers are an important and major source of the IRS. To preserve these glaciers, there is an immediate need to declare all Himalayan glaciers as "protected area" including immediate demilitarisation from Siachen to preserve this second longest glacier of the planet to fall in the watershed of the Indus River.

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