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International Court Rejecting Plea Against J&K Power Project Pakistan Ends Up With Egg On Its Face

Updated: January 18, 2014 10:32 am

The International Court of Arbitration (ICA) rejecting Pakistan’s plea for stopping construction of the prestigious Kishenganga hydroelectric project in Jammu and Kashmir has come as yet another egg on the face of Pakistan that had vainly also tried to create hurdles in construction of the Salal, Baghliar and other projects earlier.

The ICA on December 20 refused to grant stay to Pakistan which claimed that construction of the Kishenganga project was in violation of the Indus Water Treaty (IWT) between India and Pakistan. Earlier in its “partial award” in February, the court upheld India’s main contention that it has the right to divert waters of Western rivers, in a non-consumptive manner, for optimal generation of power.

Construction on the dam was halted by the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration in October 2011 due to Pakistan’s protest of its effect on the flow of the Kishanganga River (called the Neelum River in Pakistan). The three Western rivers, Jhelum, Chenab and Indus, were assigned to Pakistan under the World Bank-sponsored IWT of 1960. The treaty was a result of Pakistani fear that since the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war. However, India did not revoke the treaty during any of three later Indo-Pakistani Wars.

According to IWT, the Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which constitute the eastern rivers, are allocated for exclusive use by India before these enter Pakistan. Successive governments in J&K have sought that the IWT should be scrapped because it has come as a hurdle in tapping the vast hydroelectric potential that was flowing waste. Jammu and Kashmir can produce an assessed hydroelectric potential of 8825 MW and also irrigate another 0.53 million acres from the three western rivers but the IWT was coming in its way.

The IWT is considered the world’s most generous water-sharing pact under which India agreed to set aside 80.52 per cent of the waters of the six-river Indus system for Pakistan, keeping for itself just the remaining 19.48 per cent share. Both in terms of the sharing ratio as well as the total quantum of waters reserved for a downstream state, this treaty’s munificence is unsurpassed in scale in the annals of international water treaties. This unparalleled water generosity, however, has only invited trouble for India. The “final award” pertaining to the Kishenganga project specifies that 9 cumecs of natural flow of water must be maintained in Kishenganga River at all times to maintain the environment downstream. This is much lower than the 100 cumecs of natural flow that Pakistan wanted to maintain.

The court said alternative techniques will have to be used for Kishanganga hydroelectric project and all future run of the river projects undertaken on western rivers of the Indus system. The Kishenganga project is part of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum river basin. It is located 5 kms North of Bandipura in Kashmir and will have an installed capacity of 330 MW. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be complete in 2016.

In 2010, Pakistan appealed to the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration complaining that the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant violates the IWT by increasing the catchment of the Jhelum River and depriving Pakistan of its water rights. In June 2011, the court visited both the Kishanganga and Neelum–Jhelum Projects. In August 2011, it ordered India to submit more technical data on the project. India had previously reduced the height of the dam from 98 m (322 ft) to 37 m (121 ft). After Pakistan’s application was first rejected, the court asked India late September to stop constructing any permanent works that would inhibit restoration of the river. While India cannot construct the dam, they can continue on the tunnel and power plant in hopes that the court will allow the project. In February 2013 the Hague ruled that India could divert a minimum of water for their project. In this partial award, the court upheld India’s main contention that it has the right to divert waters of western rivers, in a non-consumptive manner, for optimal generation of power.

Pakistan had also raised objections on the construction of the Dul-Hasti and Uri hydroelectric projects. The Wullar Barrage has also suffered because of the stand of Pakistan against it. Work on the Salal Hydroelectric Project on the Chenab River in Jammu was delayed due to Pakistan’s tactics of raising objections on its construction. As the construction work commenced in 1970, the project was commissioned in two stages. In the first stage, a 345 MW power station was commissioned in 1987. In the second stage, the station’s total capacity was doubled to 690 MW by 1995. The 900 mws Baglihar hydroelectric project on the Chenab also remained in the eye of the storm as Pakistan raised objections on its design. After its construction began in 1999, Pakistan claimed that design parameters of Baglihar project violated the IWT. Thereafter, India and Pakistan vainly held several rounds of talks to resolve the dispute. After failure of talks on January 18, 2005, Pakistan raised six objections to the World Bank, a broker and signatory of Indus Water Treaty. In May 2005, the World Bank appointed Professor Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss civil engineer, to adjudicate the difference.

Lafitte declared his final verdict on February 12, 2007, in which he upheld some minor objections of Pakistan, declaring that pondage capacity be reduced by 13.5 per cent, height of dam structure be reduced by 1.5 meter and power intake tunnels be raised by 3 meters, thereby limiting some flow control capabilities of the earlier design. However he rejected Pakistani objections on height and gated control of spillway declaring these conformed to engineering norms of the day. India had already offered Pakistan similar minor adjustments for it to drop its objection.

Pakistan has also raised objections to four new hydropower projects of India to be built on western rivers. These include, Ratle Hydroelectric Plant (48MW), Miyar (120MW), Lower Kalnai (48MW) and Pakul Dul (1000MW to be increased to 1,500MW).

By SP Sharma

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