Pak­istan: Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t

Truro Daily News - - OPINION - Gwynne Dyer Gwynne Dyer’s new book is ‘Grow­ing Pains: The Fu­ture of Democ­racy (and Work)’.

“In­dia is shrink­ing the ow of wa­ter into Pak­istan,” said Pak­istan’s Chief Jus­tice Saqib Nisar on Satur­day, re­new­ing a ban on show­ing In­dian TV shows and Bol­ly­wood films on Pak­istani tele­vi­sion. “ ey are try­ing to [ob­struct the con­struc­tion] of our dam and we can­not even close their [tele­vi­sion] chan­nels?”

On the face of it, this is a de­ci­sion that in­vites ridicule. Let us sup­pose for a mo­ment that In­dia re­ally is steal­ing Pak­istan’s wa­ter. How does ban­ning In­dian con­tent from Pak­istani tele­vi­sion hurt In­dia back?

The Pak­istani pub­lic loves Bol­ly­wood lms and In­dian TV shows; de­spite their re­li­gious dif­fer­ences, these are two closely re­lated cul­tures.

The Pak­istani chan­nels pay very lit­tle or noth­ing for the In­dian con­tent, but the ban will de­prive Pak­ista­nis of stu they re­ally like.

It’s self-de­feat­ing and stupid – but the quar­rel be­hind it is deadly se­ri­ous.

The planned Di­amer-bhasha dam on the up­per course of the In­dus River will be the third-largest in the world if and when it is com­pleted, and the 4,500 megawatts of elec­tric­ity it pro­duces would al­most dou­ble Pak­istan’s hy­dro power. at would help a lot in a coun­try so short of gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity that it has ‘elec­tric­ity ri­ots.’

e big dam has be­come more ur­gent, as Pak­istan’s new prime min­is­ter Im­ran Khan pointed out re­cently, be­cause with­out it there may be a se­ri­ous short­age of wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion by 2025, lead­ing to drought-like con­di­tions in most of the coun­try. But con­struc­tion on the dam has still not be­gun be­cause the money is not there.

Pak­istan’s pre­vi­ous big dams have all de­pended on huge in­vest­ments by in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions like the World Bank and the Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank.

is time they are not forth­com­ing, be­cause the pro­jected dam would be in the part of Kash­mir prov­ince that is con­trolled by Pak­istan but still claimed by In­dia.

Pak­istan seized the north­ern part of Kash­mir when the Bri­tish-ruled In­dian em­pire was par­ti­tioned in 1947, while In­dia grabbed the south­ern part in­clud­ing the densely pop­u­lated Vale of Kash­mir.

For all prac­ti­cal pur­poses the Kashmiri bor­der is per­ma­nent, but In­dia’s per­sis­tent claim on the north­ern part scares in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal away.

at’s what made Chief Jus­tice Saqib Nisar so cross. It’s also why Prime Min­is­ter Im­ran Khan has launched a cam­paign seek­ing con­tri­bu­tions from Pak­ista­nis at home and abroad in or­der to get the dam started.

e re­newed ban on In­dian TV and lm is re­ally a way of get­ting the Pak­istani pub­lic’s at­ten­tion for this cam­paign.

Like ev­ery­thing else about this dis­pute, the ap­peal for vol­un­tary con­tri­bu­tions is mostly sym­bolic: you can’t raise the $12 bil­lion needed to build the dam that way.

What is not sym­bolic is the 2025 dead­line for more wa­ter stor­age ca­pac­ity to avoid a col­lapse in food pro­duc­tion in Pak­istan.

It’s not clear from the pub­lic de­bate in Pak­istan how much of this ex­pected wa­ter short­age is due to cli­mate change, and how much to the re­lent­less growth of Pak­istan’s pop­u­la­tion. (Pak­istan has one of the high­est birth rates out­side of Africa, twice as high as In­dia or Bangladesh.)

Back in 1951, shortly af­ter Pak­istan was cre­ated, the coun­try’s 34 mil­lion peo­ple had 5,300 cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter per capita avail­able to them.

e rivers still con­tain the same amount of wa­ter, but there are now 210 mil­lion Pak­ista­nis, so there is only 1,000 cu­bic me­tres per capita – and fall­ing.

e pop­u­la­tion is still grow­ing fast, and cli­mate change is com­ing.

e fu­ture of the In­dus river sys­tem’s six trib­u­taries in a warm­ing world is to ood for a decade or two while the glaciers that feed them melt, and then to dwin­dle in vol­ume when the glaciers are gone.

Five of those six trib­u­taries (though not the one the Di­amerBhasha dam would be built on) cross In­dian ter­ri­tory be­fore they en­ter Pak­istan.

e 1960 treaty that shares out the In­dus sys­tem’s wa­ter be­tween the two coun­tries never fore­saw that the ow might drop dras­tic- ally. It just said that In­dia could take out a xed vol­ume of wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion and other pur­poses be­fore let­ting the rest ow on­ward to Pak­istan.

If the ow should drop dras­ti­cally due to cli­mate change, there­fore, In­dia would still be en­ti­tled by treaty to take the same amount of wa­ter as be­fore from those ve trib­u­taries, even though that would leave lit­tle for Pak­istan.

If In­dia did that, how­ever, Pak­istan would start to starve, be­cause 85 per cent of its food pro­duc­tion de­pends on ir­ri­ga­tion from the In­dus sys­tem.

It’s hard to be­lieve that an In­dia which was also fac­ing food short­ages – a pre­dicted 25-per­cent loss in food pro­duc­tion at 2 Cel­sius higher av­er­age global tem­per­a­ture – would vol­un­tar­ily give up wa­ter it is en­ti­tled to by treaty.

It’s equally hard to be­lieve that Pak­istan would let its own peo­ple starve with­out threat­en­ing war with In­dia.

Both of these coun­tries have nu­clear weapons. eir prob­lem­solv­ing abil­i­ties, as cur­rently dis­played, do not in­spire con dence.

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