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Shahpurkandi Dam: India-Pakistan experts advocate cooperation for water security – Pakistan



Shahpurkandi Dam: India-Pakistan experts advocate cooperation for water security - Pakistan

Because the Shahpurkandi barrage on the river Ravi within the Indian state of Punjab nears completion, there are fears in downstream Pakistan. The dam, proposed three many years in the past, has the potential to irrigate 5,000 hectares of agricultural land in Punjab and over 32,000 hectares in India-held Jammu and Kashmir. However the dam will cease any movement of river water to downstream Pakistan, with newspaper headlines being largely dominated by accusations of ‘water war-mongering’.

The Ravi is a part of the six rivers of the Indus basin which are ruled by the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). Signed in 1960 between the 2 international locations, the IWT is one in every of solely two main transboundary water treaties in South Asia (the opposite being the 1996 Ganges treaty), thought of one of many nice successes of water diplomacy.

The Third Pole invited two consultants — Erum Sattar of Pakistan and Uttam Kumar Sinha from India — to weigh in on what the event means for the IWT in addition to the long-term impacts on the Indus basin in ecological phrases.

Erum Sattar

Water legislation skilled with a doctorate from Harvard Regulation College

Picture courtesy of Erum Sattar

The most recent controversy over the Shahpurkandi Dam and its completion by India is akin to a ‘nothing burger’ — an argument that rages for a while primarily on social media and plenty of discuss nothing. Affordable individuals ought to meet it by responding with the request to ‘transfer alongside, please’, as there’s nothing to see right here. With that total perspective laid out, it is very important dive briefly into the small print of what the IWT does and doesn’t permit.

The IWT stays up to now the one treaty on this planet that diverts and divides precise rivers and never their flows or particular quantities of water. It assigned the three western rivers of the Indus basin to Pakistan whereas the three japanese rivers had been allotted to India. The principle factor to find out about this division is that it was meant to create certainty, in order that after the conclusion of the treaty, each international locations would grow to be entitled to assemble the infrastructure wanted to undertake full utilisation of the waters of the rivers allotted to them.

As a result of water flows downstream, any movement that India didn’t beforehand utilise upstream inside its territory would naturally movement all the way down to Pakistan. Within the case of the current dam and controversy, that is exactly what was taking place with the flows of the Ravi that weren’t, till now, diverted upstream inside India.

However simply because the treaty permits most utilisation by the 2 international locations of ‘their’ respective rivers doesn’t imply that the international locations mustn’t attain settlement and make provisions for environmental flows — even when which means making addendums to the IWT.

As environmentalists have lengthy identified, by not creating provisions for environmental flows, the hydrology and ecology of the three downstream japanese rivers is irreparably harmed. Furthermore, the rising complexity and altering patterns of precipitation and river movement, because of accelerated glacial soften and local weather change, make water administration far more advanced than was understood on the time the treaty was negotiated.

Slightly than specializing in India’s creation of tasks inside its territory, Pakistan ought to take the chance to have a holistic dialog about what good neighbourly conduct entails given the realities of local weather change. Pakistan ought to put collectively a proposal underneath Article 7 of the treaty that creates the premise for future cooperation alongside the Indus River system. It ought to share its best-use concepts with India and the world instantly. Given its dependence on even handed and forward-thinking administration of the rivers of the Indus, that is the necessity of the hour. Anything is a distraction.

For the needs of gaining a clearer understanding of the current controversy, it’s not necessary to dive into the intricacies of worldwide water legislation and the competing ideas of no considerable hurt and equitable utilisation. Nor to instantly deal with whether or not and to the extent there are particular and common reservations on Pakistan’s finish as there have been via the lengthy historical past of Indus negotiations about being the decrease riparian to a big upstream neighbour on each the western and japanese rivers.

Each ‘disaster’ could be a chance. And proper now, Pakistan as an important custodian of the Indus ought to undertake a visionary, expansionist and optimistic method. It ought to suggest a plan centered on increasing cooperation throughout the Indus River Basin for long-term sustainability amid excessive local weather change.

This method ought to embody all human customers and non-human species and ecology throughout Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and China. This fashion, Pakistan could be on the fitting facet of historical past even earlier than worldwide water legislation and maybe different co-riparians conform to handle the basin for current and future vitality. Being proper and visionary is necessary, whereas actively working in the direction of the realisation of hope for the virtuous alignment of geopolitics and nationwide pursuits.

Uttam Kumar Sinha

Senior skilled on transboundary rivers, creator of Indus Basin Uninterrupted: A Historical past of Territory and Politics from Alexander to Nehru

Picture courtesy of Uttam Kumar Sinha

Any impression that the Shahpurkundi venture is designed to intentionally forestall water flowing into Pakistan is misinformed. That stated, as a result of poor understanding of the IWT, there’s a perceived notion that India is utilizing the waters of the rivers as a instrument to punish Pakistan.

Through the lengthy years of negotiations, Indian negotiators had been acutely aware of water necessities for India’s improvement plans, irrigation amenities and energy. It was essential, subsequently, to get the waters of the japanese rivers for the proposed Rajasthan canal (now known as the Indira Gandhi canal) and the Bhakra Dam on the Sutlej River. With out these waters each the Indian states of Punjab and Rajasthan could be left dry, severely hampering India’s meals manufacturing.

Whereas it was necessary to guard India’s curiosity on the japanese rivers this was not completed at the price of decreased water provides to Pakistan. It’s helpful, subsequently, to learn the provisions on the japanese rivers within the IWT, which stipulates India’s unrestricted use of the waters of the japanese rivers and, particularly Article II, which explicitly states that India has full rights over the usage of Ravi waters earlier than they cross into Pakistani territory.

The debates on the IWT inside India largely fall into three classes. First, is about the necessity to change the IWT with one other improved one — an Indus Water Treaty-II. The second argument is to abrogate it and utilise the provisions of the treaty to inflict ache on Pakistan as a countermeasure.

These advocating revision argue that the treaty is outdated within the sense that it doesn’t take note of new realities and grounds for cooperation reminiscent of the right survey of the basins for higher exploitation of water assets; reconsideration of the pursuits of Kashmiris whose pursuits had been neglected; and new applied sciences getting used for dam-making, de-siltation and ecological points, amongst others.

The advocates of abrogation, nonetheless, argue that the treaty has unjustly signed away extra waters to Pakistan than it rightfully deserved and has not ensured pleasant behaviour from Pakistan.

However there’s a third perspective that centres across the optimum use of treaty provisions. These advocating this maintain that India has been lackadaisical by not utilizing the provisions of the treaty to good impact. India has not constructed the infrastructure for the complete use of the waters of the japanese rivers just like the Ravi, or the “permissible storage capability” it’s granted on the western rivers by the IWT. That is particularly necessary as India faces water shortage.

The important thing water tasks prioritised since 2014 on the Indus rivers by India all centered on the optimum use of water as underneath the IWT. These embody the Shahpurkandi Da, the Ujh venture in Jammu & Kashmir, and the 2nd Ravi Vyas Hyperlink Challenge in Punjab on the japanese rivers.

On the western rivers, the Bursar Multipurpose Challenge in Jammu and Kashmir, and a second multi-purpose venture being deliberate is the Gyspa on Bhaga River (Chenab Principal) in Lahul & Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. There’s additionally a robust opinion that the Tulbul Navigation Challenge, to which Pakistan objected and which stays stalled, should now be accomplished.

Whereas it is very important significantly have a look at what could be completed inside the framework of the IWT to foster cooperation given the altering Indus basin dynamics; there are two necessary caveats from the Indian perspective.

Firstly, the concept India is striving to accumulate capability to control or withhold the movement of water from Pakistan should be put aside. It’s untenable underneath the provisions of the IWT and it could be simple to watch such actions.

Secondly, India feels {that a} part of Pakistan’s management is elevating points to distract from its personal inside water administration failures and a bid to realize worldwide consideration, but once more, to Kashmir. These hamper any sensible probabilities of cooperation.

This text was initially printed on The Third Pole and has been reproduced with permission.

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