Monday May 27, 2024

Indian water terrorism

By Qammer Abbass Anka
May 24, 2016

“Thousands have lived without love, not one without water”

(WH Auden)

Vision of Auden is especially relevant in the context of South Asia, which houses more than one fifth of the world's population and where the economies are largely dependent upon agriculture. Unfortunately, South Asian countries, particularly India and Pakistan, have both faced challenges in water management and proper river basin management. The consequence of this has been a severe water crisis further diminishing both ground and surface water. A cursory glance at the data on fresh water availability per person, per year reveals this vulnerability. South Asia's renewable freshwater resources are about 1,200 cubic meters per capita in comparison to other developed countries with figure of 2,500- 15,000 cubic meters per capita. Even some states like Canada and Norway enjoy the luxurious quota of over 70,000 cubic meters per capita.

The water of Indus basin originates from Chinese Tibet and the Himalayan Mountain in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. They flow from the hills through the arid state of Punjab and Sindh converging in Pakistan and finally emptying into the Arabian Sea South of Karachi. Where once there was only a narrow strip of irrigated land along these rivers, developments over the last century have created a large network of canals and storage facilities that provide water for more than 26 million acres, the largest irrigated area of any one river system in the world.

The partition of British India which sowed seeds of conflict between India and Pakistan also created a continuous rift over the plentiful water of the Indus basin. Immediately following the partition of 1947, the newly formed states came at odds over how to share and manage what was essentially cohesive and unitary network of irrigation. The situation became further complicated as the geography of the partition left source rivers of the Indus basin in India.

Pakistan felt its livelihood threatened by the mischievous Indian control over the tributaries that fed water into the Pakistani portion of the basin. India certainly had its own selfish ambitions and tenacity to harm its neighbour, Pakistan felt acutely threatened by conflict over the main source of water, a life line for her cultivable land. During the first year of partition the water of the Indus was apportioned by the Inter-Dominion accord of May 4, 1948. This accord required India to release sufficient water to Pakistani regions of the basin. The accord was meant to meet immediate requirements and was to be followed by negotiations for a more enduring solution. Neither side, however, was willing to compromise their share of water.

The system of rivers in the Indus basin comprises 2,000 miles of river Indus with its five tributaries flowing from East- Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, with an aggregate length of 2,800 miles. Most of the upper reaches of the Indus basin lie in India. All these rivers combine in Mithan kot in Pakistan and finally merge into the Arabian Sea near Karachi. The Indus system of rivers has been used for irrigation ever since civilisation took root in this area. Similarly, the water disputes too dates back to the pre-partition era, when there were significant inter-state differences between Punjab, Sindh, Bahawalpur and Bikaner.

India while violating Indus Water Treaty, has built Kishan Ganga dam which is in final stages. The Kishan Ganga Hydroelectric Plant is part of a run-of the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishan Ganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin. It is located 5km north of Jammu and Kashmir, with stated capacity of 330MW. Pakistan is constructing the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant downstream of the Kishan Ganga. The Kishan Ganga Project will divert a portion of the Neelum River from Pakistan which will reduce power generation at the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Plant. India has been lying that the project will divert 10 percent of the river's flow contrary to the actual figures of 33 percent. According to the decision of International Court of Arbitration, in 2013, 9 cumecs of natural flow of water must be maintained by India in Kishan Ganga River. Unfortunately the decision of highest court has yet not been complied by India.

Pakistan is a serious victim of water scarcity. India is creating deliberate water shortages for Pakistan under the underlying aim of harming Pakistan. Historically, India has been trying to establish its hegemony in the region by controlling water sources and damaging agricultural economies of its neighbouring states. India has water disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Critics in Bangladesh feel that Farraka Barrage, which was initiated in 1974 as a trial run, has been wickedly manipulated by India in her own favour. They strongly feel that the Southwestern region of Bangladesh is being critically affected by the hegemony of India allowing limited water from Ganges to Bangladesh.

The hydro terrorism by India is adversely affecting Bangladesh's agriculture, farming, fishing thereby crippling her economy. But ironically, Bangladesh under Hasina's reign is not free from appeasing India and pays little heed to her own national interests and rights. Since, disruption or contamination of water supplies amounts to water terrorism, it will not be wrong to call India a Water Terrorist.

Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are facing serious difficulties in the agricultural and power sector because of a water grabber India. India is using water as an instrument of war, converting grain producing land of neighboring countries into deserts through inundation and trickling of water. Her wicked scheme of constructing barrages and dams on water sources is a sheer violation of international water pacts. The alarming situation is paving way for troubled South Asia in which future wars would be due to water scarcity and food insecurity.

Indian strategy to use potent weapon against Pakistan is very lethal and two pronged. Firstly it is accumulating water by building dams on the rivers that flow into Pakistan. Pakistan has an agriculture-based economy reliant on the Indus and its tributaries. Upstream dams allow India to manipulate the flows of water as it sees fit.

Secondly, it diverts river-courses during monsoons to release too much water towards Pakistan causing floods and destruction. India has constructed 4 large and 16 small dams on River Jhelum, a total of 62 dams are to be built on the rivers Chenab and Jhelum. India is also constructing a large dam in Kargil on River Indus which will block 45% flow of water to Pakistan.

It is said to be the world’s 3rd largest dam. India has also finalised plans to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water with the approval of e-president Hamid Karzai.

Off late, radical Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has ordered diverting water of Chenab River to Beas, which is serious violation of Indus Water Treaty. Violation of Indus Basin Treaty is in line with India's national policy of backtracking from its pledges and breaking international agreements and defying the UN. India intends to complete its water denial plan to Pakistan as soon as possible, after which Pakistan will get deprived of its legitimate share of water. Consequently, Pakistan's condition will become worse than Somalia and Ethiopia, the two drought ridden countries. On the other hand, if India opens the gates of these illegal dams, it can sink Pakistan within 48 hours.

Indian water terrorism is not restricted to Pakistan only. India’s wicked designs to control and manipulate water sources with a view to drain neighbours also extends to Bangladesh.