Friday September 17, 2021

Despite threats, India not sharing flood data

Despite threats, India not sharing flood data

LAHORE: Despite formally seeking information on successive occasions, India is still adamant not to share data about flow of rivers originating from its territory to Pakistan amid catastrophic flooding upstream.

The swollen Chenab River wreaked havoc in Indian states including Occupied Jammu & Kashmir following recent torrential rain and accelerated snow melting. There is also relatively higher flow in River Ravi. Several cloudbursts in north India mean possible flooding in Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej flowing into Pakistan, which may hit downstream population unaware of the surging flows.

India has been reluctant to renew the 1989 river data sharing agreement which used to be renewed on yearly basis. The two sides decided to renew this agreement as it had been drafted in line with provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. Para 2 of Article VI of the Treaty says: “Either party requests the supply of any data relating to the hydrology of the rivers, or to canal or reservoir operation connected with the rivers, or to any provision of this Treaty. Such data shall be supplied by the other party to the extent that these are available.”

In the spirit of such provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty, both India and Pakistan agreed on formally signing the 1989 agreement which binds India to share river inflow, outflow and diversion data to Pakistan on a daily basis. However, India has backed out of this vital river data sharing agreement unilaterally, leaving downstream populations vulnerable to potential floods.

Pakistan early this year took up the issue of renewing the 1989 agreement in a meeting of Permanent Indus Water Commission in Delhi but to no avail. Later, a reminder was issued before July but it was also met with hesitancy. With refusal to renew the 32-year-old agreement of sharing flood data, India will only share information about ‘extraordinary’ high flood in trans-boundary rivers, leaving little time for Pakistan to make a flood mitigation contingency plan.

In the event of extreme weather, timely and relevant flood data carries immense importance but India is unfortunately not living up to the spirit of the Treaty. A senior official of Pakistan Indus Waters Commission said only data of extraordinary floods is being disseminated. To a question about not renewing the June 1989 agreement, officials said it is true that despite several interactions the Indian side distanced itself from earlier positions due to reasons better known to them. So far, he added, they are sticking to the Treaty only for sharing extraordinary discharges.

Nonetheless, unlike rising Chenab, there is least chance of flooding in the Ravi and Sutlej anytime soon as dams in India are yet to be filled to moderate levels. As per information received at the office of Pakistan Indus Waters Commission from India, Bhakra Dam on River Sutlej, the Thien Dam on River Ravi and Pong Dam on River Beas recorded lower average storage as compared to last year.

As per data of July 28, 2021, Bhakra Dam's level was 1579ft against full level of 1680ft. Water level at Pong Dam was 1415ft against maximum conservation level of 1400ft. Similarly, water level recorded at Thien Dam was 1630ft against maximum filling level of 1732ft.