are the cause of the acute water scarcity the country currently faces.
Pakistan’s stance is not entirely baseless either. What has been called India’s ‘mad rush’ for hydro projects on western rivers has led to great insecurity in Pakistan regarding water diversion from its rivers, making Pakistan and its agro-based economy vulnerable to Indian decisions. Hydro projects such as Salal, Dul Hasti, and Baglihar on the Chenab River have given birth to considerable controversy and bitterness between the two neighbors. Jhelum, meanwhile, has seen the interruption of its water flows from 13 hydel projects, while quite a few small, medium and mega projects are in the pipeline. As for the mighty Indus River, nine projects have already been identified by India, while two major ones, Chutak and Nimoo Bazgo, are under construction.
Needless to say, India’s hydro projects have tested the patience of Pakistani authorities, who have accused India of non-compliance with the Indus Water Treaty vis-à-vis the technical design and storage capacity of the projects and interpretation of various clauses of the treaty. Unsurprisingly, India has defended its stance, claiming that the projects built on western rivers are run-of-the-river projects, which use the flow of water in its natural course, without any storage or pondage. However, the cumulative effect of all the projects could lead to enough water being stored by India to affect Pakistan’s water availability during the crucial growing season.
Clearly, India’s hydel projects frenzy will put immense pressure on the already-strained relations between the two countries. That the matter was taken to the International Court of Arbitration in 2011 for the Kishanganga project, the first time in the history of the IWT, shows the gravity of the issue.
Though Pakistan’s grievances against India are justified, with conflict resolution between the two countries seeming like the most obvious solution, there are some measures that can be taken at home to alleviate the problem. Better water management, developing more productive agricultural practices, pumping up infrastructural support and working towards more efficient water storage will go a long way in reducing water scarcity for Pakistan.
A similar fiasco over water has been breeding on the other side for India with Bangladesh, a lower riparian country. Just as in the case of Pakistan, India is alleged to have constructed various dams on rivers such as Teesta, Gumti, Khowai, Dharla, Dudkumar, Monu, etc., diverting water flowing into Bangladesh.
Just three years after the signing of the Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission (JRC), India constructed the Farakka barrage in 1975 to aid in the navigability of the Calcutta Port. Subsequent to that, fresh water supply in the Ganges decreased considerably, leaving many undesirable ecological and economical effects. A 30-year water treaty was again signed between the countries in 1996, recognizing Bangladesh’s rights as a lower riparian country. However, water diversion from India continued to create problems.
In the case of Bangladesh, greater regional cooperation, perhaps with the help of regional bodies such as SAARC, the issue can be breached and a regional resolution can be achieved. On a more internal level, Bangladesh ought to ensure better implementation of laws against polluting precious fresh water from the rivers, introduce measures for harvesting rainwater, as well as recycling used water, and increase awareness and implementation of water conservation.
While it is veryy easyy to blame anotherother country for the watewater woes beinging faced, some steps have to be taken by the home country as wwell.
Having said that, recognizingreco the potency of water-related conflicts is also very important. In 1995,19 Dr. Ismailmail Serageldin, then ViceVic President of the World Bank commented,comm “The wars of the next century willw be over water.”
While Dr. Serageldin’ Serageldin’s comment may seem like a far-fetched thought right now, the Indo-Pak and IndoBangladesh disputes are a stark reminder that water wars are very much a possibility. In the case of India and Pakistan, though the possibility of a water war cannot be entertained with certainty, one can definitely say that it does prevent the thawing of the historical animosity that the two countries have been battling for long. Sijal Fawad is a Research Analyst at the Business Recorder and is an external student of economics and finance at SOAS, University of London.