Re­gional Vic­tims of Cli­mate Change

Nicholas B Rob­son Direc­tor Gen­eral, Cay­man In­sti­tute and Chief Co­or­di­na­tor, South Asian Strate­gic Sta­bil­ity In­sti­tute, UK

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents -

Pak­istan's great cities of an­tiq­uity Har­rapa and Mo­hen­jo­Daro, the capi­tols of the In­dus Val­ley Civ­i­liza­tion, were founded around 2600 BC on the banks of the mighty In­dus River. They were founded in this lo­ca­tion be­cause of the close prox­im­ity to wa­ter and a high­way for trade. Af­ter some 700 years the Harap­pan cities be­gan to de­cline. Ac­cord­ing to Kenoyer one of the rea­sons was the dry­ing up of ma­jor rivers. To­day­wa­ter is no less im­por­tant to Pak­istan andwe­must be heed­ful of its fragility, its fe­roc­ity, its power, and in the ab­sence ofwater, its abil­ity to trig­ger con­flict. Wa­ter se­cu­rity is an im­per­a­tive for the sur­vival of any state. Wa­ter se­cu­rity im­pinges upon all as­pects of a so­ci­ety. Wa­ter se­cu­rity is nec­es­sary for the pro­duc­tion of en­ergy, for agri­cul­ture, for in­dus­try, and for hu­man sur­vival. In years to come cli­mate change may well cause a shift in pre­vail­ing weather pat­terns in Pak­istan. The nor­mal mon­soon pat­terns may well change dra­mat­i­cally. Pak­istan, un­like In­dia, is de­pen­dent on one river sys­tem for the ma­jor­ity of its wa­ter and is al­ready one of the most wa­ter stressed coun­tries in the­world. In the sub­con­ti­nent river­ine sys­tems are be­ing shared be­tween a num­ber of coun­tries. Start­ing in the West we be­gin with Afghanistan, Pak­istan, In­dia, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and fi­nally China. And China, it could well be ar­gued, is the ele­phant in the room. The ma­jor river­ine sys­tems con­sist of 16 ma­jor rivers and those be­ing be­ing shared are; the In­dus, the Ganges, and the Brahma­pu­tra, which drain theHi­malaya. In the In­dus River sys­tem we have the Beas, the Chenab, the Jhelum, the Kabul, the Ravi, and the Sut­lej. TheGanges basin is part of the com­pos­ite Brahma­pu­tra Meghna basin drain­ing 1,000,080 6000 square kilo­me­ters in Tibet and Nepal. The main rivers be­ing the Ram­ganga, the Ya­muna, the Tamsa, theGomti, theGhaghara, the Son, theGan­daki and the Kosi that feed the Ganges. Af­ter flow­ing across the Gangetic plain the Ganges then fi­nally be­gins branch­ing away into a dis­tribu­tary river­ine sys­tem lead­ing in­toBangladesh. The In­dus Wa­ter Treaty gov­erns wa­ter use be­tween Pak­istan and In­dia. This treaty was signed in Karachi on Septem­ber 19, 1960 be­tween the In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Jawa­har­lal Nehru and Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan Mo­hammed Ayub Khan. This treaty was was made nec­es­sary by the par­ti­tion of Bri­tish In­dia, which cre­ated con­flict over the wa­ters of the In­dus basin be­tween the two newly in­de­pen­dent states. By 1951 the sit­u­a­tion had be­come un­ten­able, and it was only through the good of­fices of David Lilien­thal, for­mer chair­man of the US Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion who was in the re­gion, pur­port­edly writ­ing a se­ries of ar­ti­cles for Col­liers Mag­a­zine, and who had been briefed by the US State and Ex­ec­u­tive Branches, who hoped that he could bring some res­o­lu­tion to the wors­en­ing sit­u­a­tion. It quickly be­came clear the sit­u­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries were be­com­ing acute. His jour­nal for that pe­riod states "In­dia and Pak­istan were on the verge of war over Kash­mir. There seemed to be no pos­si­bil­ity of ne­go­ti­at­ing this is­sue un­til ten­sions abated. One way to re­duce hos­til­ity . . . would be to con­cen­trate on other im­por­tant is­sues where co­op­er­a­tion was pos­si­ble. Progress in th­ese ar­eas would pro­mote a sense of com­mu­nity be­tween the two na­tions which might, in time, lead to a Kash­mir set­tle­ment. Ac­cord­ingly, I pro­posed that In­dia and Pak­istan work out a pro­gram jointly to de­velop and jointly to op­er­ate the In­dus Basin river sys­tem, upon which both na­tions were de­pen­dent for ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter. With new dams and ir­ri­ga­tion canals, the In­dus and its trib­u­taries could be made to yield the ad­di­tional wa­ter each coun­try needed for in­creased food pro­duc­tion. In the ar­ti­cle I had sug­gested that the World Bank might use its good of­fices to bring the par­ties to agree­ment, and help in the fi­nanc­ing of an In­dus De­vel­op­ment pro­gram. David Lilien­thal's ideas were well re­ceived both by the World Bank and even­tu­ally by the In­dian and Pak­istani gov­ern­ments. The World Bank pro­posed a Work­ing Party made up of In­dian, Pak­istani, and World Bank en­gi­neers, with the bank del­e­ga­tion act­ing as a Con­sul­ta­tive Party. Af­ter much difficult ne­go­ti­a­tion the two sides fi­nally re­turned to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble in De­cem­ber 1954 for talks that con­tin­ued very slowly the next six years. Fi­nally, with fi­nanc­ing sup­plied by the United King­dom and United States the treaty was signed by the Prime Min­is­ter's of Pak­istan and In­dia in 1960. The treaty has served both coun­tries well for many years; this how­ever, could change as the global cli­mate be­gins to change. The wa­ters of the In­dus River orig­i­nates on the Ti­betan plateau, as do the Beas, the Chenab, the Jhelum, the Ravi, and the Sut­lej, and all of th­ese rivers are de­pen­dent on snow­fall in theHi­malayan re­gion. Th­ese glaciers, or as they are re­ferred to by Lester Brown, Pres­i­dent of the Earth Pol­icy In­sti­tute, “reser­voirs in the sky”, melt­ing slowly dur­ing the warmer months of the year sup­ply­ing a reg­u­lar sup­ply of wa­ter dur­ing the dry sea­son. It is now clear that cli­mate change is af­fect­ing the Western glaciers in a dra­matic fash­ion (far more se­ri­ously, for ex­am­ple, than the damper Eastern Hi­malayas). This fact, along with ob­served ris­ing air tem­per­a­tures, and the pos­si­bil­ity of chang­ing rain­fall pat­terns should be rais­ing se­ri­ous con­cern on the sub-con­ti­nent.

The over­whelm­ing flood­ing in Pak­istan in 2010 and 2011

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