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August 27, 2018

Pakistan to uphold objections to designs of two Indian hydropower projects

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August 27, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is to uphold its opposition to India's construction of the 1,500MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnai hydropower projects on the Chenab River in a two-day meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission in Lahore on August 29-30, officials at the Ministry of Water Resources said.

The delegations would be led by Syed Mehar Ali Shah, Commissioner of the Pakistan Commission of Indus Water, and PK Saxena, India's Indus Water Commissioner and the head of a nine-member team from New Delhi, which is scheduled to enter Pakistan on August 28 via the Wagah border crossing. It would return on August 31.

The commissioner-level talks would discuss the two disputed hydro power projects, exchange flood data from the upstream Baglihar and Salal projects in India-administered Kashmir, and finalize the future schedule of bilateral visits. They would also work on a strategy to strengthen the role of their respective Indus Water commissions.

A top official at the Ministry of Water Resources, speaking to The News, said Pakistan had objected to the designs of the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnai projects at the last commissioners' meeting in March. Pakistani officials had argued that the designs of both projects constituted a violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). At the meeting, Indian officials had showed an inclination to mitigate the objections raised by Pakistan, he said.

“Let's see if India accommodates Pakistan's objections or not at the talks in Lahore,” the Ministry of Water Resources official said. He said the Pakal Dul hydro power project would be built by India on the Marusadar River, a major right-bank tributary of the Chenab River, in two phases - the first with a power generation capacity of 1,000MW and a second phase with 500MW-capacity. The Marusadar converges with the Chenab some 225 km upstream of Marala Barrage in Pakistan and 76 km from Baglihar Dam.

Pakal Dul is to be a concrete-faced rock-filled dam with a height of 167 metres. The project would have a storage capacity of 88,000 acre feet and would be filled every year during the June 21-August 31 flood season. The stored water would be released during the dry winter season.

Pakistan says that the Pakal Dul project's tunnel spillway should be raised closer to Dead Storage Level (DSL), a change which would not affect its discharge capacity. It has argued that the placement of the tunnel spillway 40 meters below the DSL would enable draw-down flushing, which is not permitted to India under the IWT. Pakistan has also asked India to reduce the free board height of Pakal Dul to 5 metres from 7 metres.

Speaking about the 48 MW Lower Kalnai hydro power project, the Ministry of Water Resources official said it was under construction by India on the Lower Kalnai River, a left-bank tributary of the Chenab River. It joins the Chenab about 19 km downstream of the Dulhasti hydropower project and 180 km upstream of the working boundary between the two countries. Pakistan has raised objections about its free board height, pondage, spillway and intake, and has asked to send a delegation to India to conduct a physical inspection of the project.

At the March meeting of the Indus Water commissioners, Pakistan had asked India to halve the pondage capacity of the project to 0.38 million cubic meters, and to reduce its free board height to one metre from two metres.

At Indus Water talks in March 2017, Pakistan had successfully persuaded India to cancels plans for the 120MW Miyar hydro power project, on the basis of flaws in its design.

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