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August 7, 2018

Pak-India water dispute: New govt to approach WB again

Top Story

August 7, 2018

ISLAMABAD: With the changing geo-political situation, the new political government would knock again at the door of the World Bank regarding Indian government’s violation of the Indus Water Treaty 1960 and demand setting up a ‘court of arbitration’ to settle the water disputes between the two countries, sources told The News.

India and Pakistan are disputing the construction of 330MW Kishenganga and 850MWs of Ratle hydropower projects being built by Indian on River Jehlum and River Chenab respectively where Pakistan has right of unrestricted use under the treaty. Pakistan has severely objected to the designs of these controversial projects and Islamabad has been requesting the Bank for the constitution of court of arbitration since long, while India is asking for appointment of a neutral expert to look into the issue.

“A new government is coming into power in Pakistan, while China, Russia and Turkey are also acknowledging that water is the major issue of Pakistan, so the World Bank must set up a court of arbitration,” caretaker Federal Minister for Water resources Syed Ali Zafar said on Monday while responding to a question of media that the World Bank is not responding positively since the Indian lobby is strong and its official are sitting on the top posts of the Bank.

The minister also presented a 10-point guideline for the development of water sector which the minister said have been formulated after taking opinions from water experts and other stakeholders. As climate change is haunting the country and the cropping pattern is changing, while the annual water availability of 138MAF could also change, construction of dams is very much necessary.

These guidelines suggest developing consensus on construction of the Kalabagh Dam. Besides, work on construction of Diamer-Basha having water storage capacity of 11.7MAF and Mohmand Dam with 0.75MAF should be expedited. Similarly, government should also focus on construction of small dams and reservoirs. At the time of the Indus Water Treaty in 1960, Pakistan had planned to construct eight dams and 400 reservoirs and run of river projects, as it was getting 138 million acres feet (MAF) of water annually. But, since then, it has built only Tarbela and Mangla dams which have 6.43MAF and 7.4MAF water storage capacities respectively.

The remaining huge amount of water goes into sea untapped. India has built dozens of dams and canals and other reservoirs during this period.

The Federal Minister for Water resources Syed Ali Zafar suggested that water sector budget should be increased by 20 percent, which is currently three to seven percent and is far less than the spending on water in the world which is 20 to 30 percent. He said priority should be given to the lining of canals that could save 6.5MAF of water annually, which means that every year we could save water equivalent to the capacity of Tarbela Dam. Currently, due to absence of lining of canals, half of [48 percent] water for agriculture sector is wasted. Adopting new agriculture system and modern equipment should be promoted and farmers must be provided financing for smaller projects. Water metering is also needed. The government should also regulate the unregulated tube wells that are currently one-third of a million, the minister said.

The minister also suggested that there should be installation of standardised equipment to remove confusion among the provinces on water distribution. There should be separate supply of drinking water to consumers. Besides,there should be sewage treatment plants. Like Iran and Turkey, focus should also shift towards rain harvesting and small water reservoirs should be constructed for this purpose. To a question, he said reversing the Indus Water Treaty is not possible for both India and Pakistan and it is not in the interest of Pakistan. We have to exploit this treaty. To a question as to how the government can develop consensus on Kalabagh Dam, he replied that we can educate the opposing parties, but cannot force them. National interest should be the priority, he added.

Shamail Ahmad Khawaja, Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources said that that currently hydel power installed capacity is 9383MW from which 7000MW power is being generated. The Current power generation from Tarbela is 3400MW, Mangla 200MW, Neelum-Jehlum 760MW and Ghazi-Barotha is 1400MW.

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