In­dia can par­tially block wa­ter in win­ters when flows ebb

Enterprise - - National News -

Out of the three western rivers of In­dus, Jhelum and Chenab that be­long to Pak­istan un­der 1960 In­dus Wa­ters Treaty, In­dia can only ef­fec­tively block wa­ter of the lat­ter through the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture for 7-8 days in the win­ter sea­son when the flows ebb, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment of­fi­cials.

They said In­dia is ex­plor­ing ways to re­strict flows of western rivers in the wake of an on­go­ing ten­sion be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia fol­low­ing the re­cent killing of In­dian sol­diers in the oc­cu­pied Kash­mir.

Of­fi­cials termed a pos­si­ble In­dian move as a clear dis­re­gard to an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment, which is also legally bind­ing. They said a re­duc­tion of even a sin­gle drop of wa­ter in the river flows, com­ing from Kash­mir, would be con­sid­ered as cross­ing of a red line and would in­vite strong­est pos­si­ble re­sponse from Pak­istan, which will never tol­er­ate block­age of the river wa­ter flows come what may.

The In­dus Wa­ters Treaty was signed be­tween In­dia and Pak­istan af­ter the World Bank-bro­kered ne­go­ti­a­tions that lasted al­most a decade fol­low­ing the block­age of wa­ter by In­dia soon af­ter in­de­pen­dence.

Un­der the treaty, the three western rivers went to Pak­istan while con­trol over three east­ern rivers - the Beas, Ravi and Sut­lej - was given to In­dia. Ac­cord­ing to In­dian me­dia, In­dia’s Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ex­plored ways to utilise max­i­mum wa­ters of western rivers in a bid to de­prive Pak­istan of its share un­der the In­dus Wa­ters Treaty.

In­dian me­dia said Modi-led govern­ment had de­cided on the max­i­mum use of three of the rivers, gov­erned by Pak­istan un­der the treaty. An In­dian TV chan­nel, quot­ing an anony­mous of­fi­cial, re­ported that the Modi govern­ment planned to use the western rivers to ben­e­fit farm­ers of Jammu and Kash­mir. It re­ported that the de­ci­sion was to store wa­ter and max­imise ir­ri­ga­tion area.

With this the In­dian govern­ment would be able to ir­ri­gate land in Jammu and Kash­mir for nearly 0.6 mil­lion hectares. Re­spond­ing to this as­ser­tion, Pak­istan of­fi­cials said In­dia is al­ready us­ing some of western rivers’ wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion pur­poses through ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture built be­fore or un­der the treaty.

A source said this lever­age of al­ter­ing rivers flow can­not be aug­mented in a few years, “so a sig­nif­i­cant change in quan­tity of wa­ter is a least prob­a­bil­ity in present cir­cum­stances.” The sources said the im­pact of drop in wa­ter flows can ef­fec­tively be di­luted due to wa­ter stor­age in­fra­struc­ture built on the River In­dus and Jhelum on Pak­istani side that can reg­u­late fluc­tu­at­ing flows very smoothly.

The sources, how­ever, said In­dia can only some­how ham­per river flows of Chenab. Ow­ing to plain ter­rain, there is no wa­ter stor­age site on the River Chenab in the coun­try, leav­ing agriculture sec­tor ex­posed to the fluc­tu­a­tions in river flows—whether man­made or nat­u­ral.

Of­fi­cials in Pak­istan used to con­trol these er­ratic flows through re­verse reg­u­la­tion, a term used in this case for ef­fi­ciently spread­ing wa­ter of the River Jhelum for sup­ple­ment­ing any dip in flows of Chenab.

It re­quires a con­stant in­volve­ment of ir­ri­ga­tion of­fi­cials in the Pun­jab and they are mak­ing it pos­si­ble with the suc­cess. Talk­ing about the im­pact of ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture es­tab­lished by In­dia in oc­cu­pied Kash­mir on the River Chenab flows, an of­fi­cial said New Delhi has a stor­age ca­pac­ity at Salal and Bagli­har hy­dropower projects.

He said In­dia can stop wa­ter of Chenab en­tirely dur­ing De­cem­ber, Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary by stor­ing wa­ter at lake of Salal Dam. Hav­ing stor­age ca­pac­ity of around 60,000 acre feet, In­dia can im­pound all of Chenab river flows in Salal lake for 7-8 days, which used to come down to 4,000 to 5,000 cusecs in se­vere win­ter pe­riod. “It means In­dia can block 30,000 cusecs of wa­ter in to­tal so there could be zero flows of Chenab for about a week to­wards Pak­istan in the said pe­riod,” he said.

As wa­ter re­quire­ment for ir­ri­ga­tion pur­poses has been at the low­est level in these win­ter months, such a halt in river flows is very much man­age­able and would not harm pro­duc­tion of crops.

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