Monday June 27, 2022

Pakistan to move Court of Arbitration against India

July 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has ultimately decided to move the Court of Arbitration (CoA) against India for committing blatant breaches of the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) 1960 by erecting 330MW Kishanganga Hydropower and 850MW Ratle Hydropower Projects with objectionable designs, fearing if projects are completed it will inflict damage to the water flows which are destined to reach the lower riparian country.

Khawaja Asif, Federal Minister for Water and Power, has confirmed the development in his twitter account saying that the Nawaz government has taken this decision after consulting all stakeholders. “We have decided to take the issue to full court of arbitration,” he said. The minister said that talks with India continued for two and half years at the Permanent Commission of Indus Waters (PCIW) on both the projects, but could not yield results.

However, India invited Pakistan’s concerned authorities to discuss the dispute under IWT and to this effect, Pakistan’s eight-member delegation headed by Secretary Water and Power Younas Dhagha is currently in India for two days (14-15 July).

India is in the process of building the Kishanganga Hydropower on Ganga tributary that will impact the water flows in Jhelum River and is also currently constructing MW Ratle hydropower project on the Chenab River which will also hurt Pakistan’s water interests.

The top mandarins of the Ministry of Water and Power told The News that if the 850MW Ratle Hydropower Project on Chenab River gets constructed under its existing objectionable design, the water flow of Chenab river at Head Marala will reduce by 40 percent which will be very 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 it would hand over the project to India.

This dam will be three times larger than the Baglihar hydropower dam. India has already carved out a plan to generate 32,000MW of electricity on Pakistan’s rivers that will enable New Delhi to regulate the water flows that are destined to reach Pakistan.

The relevant officials disclosed that Pakistan has raised three objections on Kishanganga project’s design saying that the pondage of the project is 7.5 million cubic meter which is excessive and it should be one million cubic meter. Pakistan also wants India to raise intake by up to 4 meters and also raise spillways up to 9 meters high.

And on the issue of Ratle Hydropower plant, Islamabad raised four objections. Pakistan wants India to maintain free board at 1 meter whereas India wants to keep it at 2 meters. In addition India wants to keep the pondage of 24 million cubic meters but Pakistan wants the pondage should of 8 million cubic meters.

Pakistan also wants the intake of the project should be raised by up to 8.8 meters and it spillways should be raised by up to 20 meters. Coming to the decision of moving Court of Arbitration, the officials said the country’s top legal fraternity headed by Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) earlier remained in the process to assess as to whether Pakistan should move Neutral Expert (NE) or Court of Arbitration (CoA) against India for violations of 1960 Indus Waters Treaty in building the 330 MW Kishanganga Hydropower and 850 MW Rattle hydropower project with faulty designs.

The decision to move the World Bank for appointment of neutral experts has now been abandoned after an internal debate of the top officials of the ministry of water and power and legal fraternity headed by Pakistan’s Attorney General of Pakistan. Debate on whether Court of Arbitration should be moved or Neutral Expert on the dispute for justice continued for months as legal fraternity was of the view that moving Neutral Expert that consists of one man is highly risky.

The legal fraternity had also argued that Court of Arbitration mostly consists of 7-members judges and they cannot be influenced by any of the party to the dispute so it would be sensible to move the court of arbitration seeking justice against the breaches of IWT provisions in the designs of the said projects being built by New Dehli on Pakistan’s rivers.

However, the government took more than eight months to decide on moving the court of arbitration on the faulty designs of MW Kishanganga Hydropower and 850 MW Ratle hydropower projects. “Now time will tell what will be the implications of the belated decision in moving CoA,” the official sources said.

Following no response from New Delhi in the stipulated period over Islamabad’s offer seeking the consent for joint nomination of Neutral Expert, Pakistan had stepped up its efforts to get legal battle initiated at international platform against India with a view to saving water interests to be hurt in both the Chenab and Jehlum rivers in the wake of ongoing construction of 330MW Kishanganga Hydropower and 850MW Ratle hydropower project with faulty designs.

The Nawaz government is serious to win the battle and it can be gauged by the fact that it has hired the consortium of two US based law firms that include Three Crowns and Walliams & Connelly. “Both law firms are also well known lobbyists in US,” a senior government official of Law ministry told The News. He said that earlier Pakistan was used to hire the individual lawyers of international repute to fight the legal battle on hydropower projects erected by India on Pakistan’s rivers.

Pakistan Commissioner of Indus Water Mirza Asif Beg said: “Now we have exhausted all the endeavors enshrined in the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 at the level of Permanent Commission of Indus Waters (PCIW) to resolve the issues of faulty designs of 330 MW Kishanganga Hydropower Project being built on Ganga river in held Kashmir and 850 MW Ratle hydropower project being erected on the Chenab river by New Delhi and the next stage is left to move either Court of Arbitration or Neutral Expert.”

He said Pakistan’s foreign office had earlier written a letter to India seeking the consent for appointment of neutral expert over the designs of the said two projects as both the countries at the level of Permanent Commission of Indus Waters (PCIW) have failed to resolve the issues. So far India has built Dalhasti hydropower project of 330MW, Baglihar of 450MW and now it has started a new project named Ratle hydropower project.

On Neelum River that joins the Jehlum River in Pakistan, India has already completed Uri-1, Uri-II hydropower project and is also close to completing the Kishenganga hydropower project. So much so it has also built two hydropower projects on Indus River that include Nimmo Bazgo and Chattak hydropower project.

According to the documents available with The News, the Ratle project envisages harnessing the hydro-power potential of the river from EL 1000m to EL 887m. This is the concrete gravity dam at a height of 170, will be built across the river just downstream of the Ratle village and an underground power house with an installed capacity of 4X140MW is proposed near the Juddi village, both in Doda District.