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August 21, 2019

India refuses to renew 30-year-old accord of sharing rivers data


August 21, 2019

LAHORE: India on Tuesday refused to renew 30-year old agreement of systematically sharing flood data with Pakistan, saying it would only inform about ‘extraordinary’ high flood in transboundary rivers.

A senior official of Pakistan Commission for Indus Waters said India, in writing, informed Pakistan that it would only provide data of high flows of rivers going downstream towards Pakistan.

“India would communicate any information it may have with regards to extraordinary discharges of water from reservoirs and flood flows of transboundary rivers to Pakistan,” the official said, citing an official announcement from Indian Indus Waters Commission. This was with reference to Article IV of Indus Waters Treaty, which relates to provisions regarding eastern and western rivers.

Till Tuesday evening, India shared only two sets of data concerning Sutlej River with Pakistan. There is no other information about other rivers discharge data India has as yet provided to Pakistan. The agreement about flood data sharing between July 1 to October 10 has been held in abeyance by India without citing any reason.

As per the information received at the office of Pakistan Indus Waters Commission from India, river flow below Harike headworks at River Sutlej was 159,500 cusecs at 1900 hours on 19 August, 2019 with tendency of rising outflows. Outflow at Ferozupre headworks at the same time was 43,043 cusecs.

Indian government on Tuesday informed Pakistan about Sutlej river flows, which were recorded at 152,185 cusecs at 2000 hours at Harikey downstream with rising tendency. Later, flow was recorded at 154,286 cusecs at Harike by India. The flow was registered at 156,685 cusecs and then receded at 158,634 cusecs but with rising tendency. The lag time of outflows at Harike headworks up to Ganda Singh Wala in Pakistan has been 24 hours.

Consequently, it is feared that as high as 140,000 cusecs of water would enter Pakistan on Wednesday morning through River Sutlej, which is medium to high level category of flood.

The flow of information from Indian side to lower riparian Pakistan has been contrary to what both countries agreed in June 1989. Contrary to 1989 bilateral agreement, which was signed under the guidelines of Indus Waters Treaty, India insisted that only selective flow data of transboundary rivers would be shared with Pakistan, “which is a regretful act”, an official of the ministry of water resources said.

Meanwhile, sources said such a high flow of River Sutlej would inflict damage to standing crops and property located along the riverbed. They, however, said Pakistan narrowly escaped a much bigger disaster as inflows from Indian side would reach River Indus at Guddu barrage when flows are descending.

Had flow of over 100,000 cusecs from Indian side joined medium flood of mighty Indus River a couple of weeks back, it could have become a major threat to lives and property in Sindh province.

As per an alert issued by Flood Forecasting Division, River Sutlej at Ganda Singh Wala is, however, likely to attain medium to high flood level in next 24 hours.

According to the prediction, very heavy to extremely heavy rainfall has been observed over the upper and lower catchments of Rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi during last 72 hours.

In such an event of extreme weather, sources said, timely flood data assumes immense importance, but India is unfortunately not providing such information.

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