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October 6, 2016

India completes Kishanganga hydropower project without resolving differences

Business

October 6, 2016

LAHORE: India has completed its 330-megawatt Kishanganga hydropower project on the western waters in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, while Pakistan is still constructing 969MW run-of-river Neelum-Jhelum power plant downstream at the same tributary.

The News learnt from reliable sources that India succeeded in constructing the project before the commencement of the dispute resolution mechanism presently being persuaded by Pakistan for ensuring adherence to the provisions under the Indus Waters Treaty.

Indian Indus Waters Commissioner PK Saxena told his Pakistani counterpart about the completion of Kishanganga hydropower project.

“As estimated by the project authorities, the initial filling below the dead storage level of the Kishanganga hydroelectric project is proposed to be carried out from 14 August to 20 August 2016 under the provision of Paragraph 18 of Annexure E of the Treaty,” the Indian official said in a letter.

Experts believe it is not a good omen that India completed the hydropower plant without Pakistan’s consent. They attributed the apathy of the federal ministry of water and power and Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters to this fiasco.

Interestingly, Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters Mirza Asif Baig and power ministry has yet to make this fact public.

Baig did not respond to the calls and text messages from this scribe to know about the developments.

The development has neither been shared with other stakeholders, like Indus River System Authority (Irsa), Punjab Irrigation Department (main user of Jhelum water) and Water and Power Development Authority.

Even Rao Irshad Ali, chairman of Irsa, when contacted, expressed ignorance over the development, saying his department was not aware.

Being a prime water regulator, Ali said the Irsa should have been informed about every development regarding the construction of infrastructure on the western rivers.

A senior official at the Punjab Irrigation Department also expressed shock over the report.

“It is a standard operating procedure that any development regarding building of infrastructure on the western rivers has to be communicated with my department,” the official said.

An ex-ministry official said all the relevant departments should have shared information about the filling of Kishanganga hydropower project with all the stakeholders.

“We should proactively deal with the water-related issues with India,” the official said. “It is the right of India to fill the lake of the hydropower project, if it is following the provisions of the treaty.” 

However, he added, at least an exercise of damage control should be done. 

Jamaat Ali Shah, ex-commissioner at Indus Waters also supported the idea of sharing this important development with all the concerned departments. 

“India should also have been asked about the construction, which was in violation of the treaty and its construction must have been stopped,” Shah said.

First time, India provided the Kishanganga hydropower project’s design to the Pakistani authorities back in 1996. The country, however, could not fully take up the issue to the relevant forums. Its attempt to thwart the Indian move by resorting to the Hague-based International Court of Arbitration also met with a little success.

Sources said Pakistan now wants to again raise this issue internationally. They said Indus Waters Commissioner is working on ad-hoc basis and his stay at the commission is already overdue by around two years.

The sources accused the secretary water and power for overlooking the administrative snags. They alleged that the secretary only focused on the power sector projects, which would be completed before 2018.

A spokesman at the power ministry did not deny the fact that India completed the construction of Kishanganga hydropower project. He, however, said the hypothesis about the response of the departments is not correct. “None of the officials purposely ignored any such matter,” he added.

All the information and actions are being taken after due consultations and keeping national interest supreme, said the spokesman.

He said the Indus Waters Commission will provide the technical details about the project’s completion. “We should not mix it with self-concocted hypothesis and half-truths to twist the facts against any office or official,” he said.

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