Saturday December 02, 2023

Disputed Kishenganga, Ratle Hydropower projects: Pak-India legal battle begins today

January 27, 2023

ISLAMABAD: The legal battle between Pakistan and India begins today (Friday) at the Court of Arbitration in The Hague on the controversial designs of the 330 MW Kishenganga and 850 MW Ratle Hydropower projects. These projects are being constructed on Jhelum and Chenab rivers respectively.

The first hearing by the Court of Arbitration would last for two days (January 27-28), a senior official of the Law Division told The News. “The Court of Arbitration will start preliminary proceedings with restrictions on India, and Pakistan that nothing will be shared with the media till the final verdict. In the first two days, Pakistan will pitch its case. And many more hearings will be heard to satisfy both sides.”

“Pakistan’s delegation, headed by the secretary Water Resources Ministry and comprising Pakistan’s commissioner of Indus Waters, top officials of the Attorney General’s Office, and a team of international lawyers hired by the Government of Pakistan would advocate the country’s case for justice.”

The World Bank had earlier constituted the Court of Arbitration on the demand of Pakistan. Likewise, it also formed a one-man neutral expert as was demanded by India.

The World Bank on October 17 appointed Sean Murphy as chairman of the Court of Arbitration (CoA) and Michel Lino as the neutral expert.

Pakistan has raised three objections to the Kishanganga project’s design saying that the pondage of the project is 7.5 million cubic meters, which is excessive and it should be one million cubic meters. Pakistan also wants India to raise intake by up to 1-4 meters and also raise the spillways up to nine meters high.

On the issue of the Ratle Hydropower plant, Islamabad raised four objections. Pakistan wants India to maintain the freeboard at one meter whereas India wants to keep it at two meters. In addition, India wants to keep the pondage of 24 million cubic meters but Pakistan wants it to be restricted to eight million cubic meters. Pakistan also wants the intake of the project should be raised by up to 8.8 meters and its spillways should be raised by up to 20 meters.

“Pakistan’s case is very strong. In the case of interpretation of Treaty with reference to the Kishenganga, The Hague court has already given the verdict on the issues of drawdown and pondage in favour of Pakistan. So we are certain that Pakistan will win the case, ” the official said.

The 850MW Ratle Hydropower project, if constructed under its existing objectionable design, will reduce the water flow of Chenab River at Head Marala by 40 percent, which will be detrimental to the irrigation in central Punjab of Pakistan. India has awarded the contract of the Rattle project to a private company that will run the project on BOT (build, operate, and transfer) basis for 35 years and then hand over the project to India.