Suleman N. Khan

Water is our most important resource and the alarming reduction in the Indus Basin waters entering Pakistan are clear signs of an orchestrated policy by the Indian authorities. Mohammad Ali Jinnah called “Kashmir the main life-sustaining artery of Pakistan”, and the Indians clearly understood its strategic value before his own countrymen could heed his words. Consequently, they manipulated the accession and de facto military occupation of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, ensuring their status as the upper riparian for the Indus waters. Their actions have always contradicted the democratic values they have propagated to the world and for them, the end justifies the means. Based on years of research, I estimate that now they intend to gradually squeeze at least 3MAF annually of our surface-water flows in a sequential progression.

The anti-dam lobby first became vocal via the pro-Indian lobby of Wali Bagh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. They opposed the reality that dams help to control floods and not create them. In 2010, Pakistan relived the 1929 flooding of Nowshera valley. Yet, the anti-KBD lobby, including Chairman WAPDA, insisted that the existence of the Kalabagh Dam (KBD) would have increased the damage incurred. However, the fact is that the Nowshera flooding was caused due to its location between the smaller Nowshera gorge and the long Attock gorge. The KBD site is over a 100km downstream of the Attock gorge and would have had no influence on it. More dams would only mean more regulation and flood control, especially downstream of the structure. Also, the anti-dam lobby proclaimed that waterlogging of Mardan/Charsadda and Peshawar valleys would occur. But the lowest point of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that is at 955 feet, which is still 40 feet higher than the maximum crest level of the KBD design at 915 feet. So, how exactly will capillary action of 40 feet be possible against the laws of physics?

Next, the rise of Sindh anti-dam lobby, in retrospect, became visible after the birth of Bangladesh. Anyway, all external and internal issues need a neutral and credible national organisation, operating under the auspices of the military. Hydrology and hydrologic issues - Pakistan’s very lifeline - cannot remain in such a state of confusion. According to my calculations, India’s interference in Pakistan’s Indus Basin flows (directly and indirectly) has already inflicted a loss of over $1 trillion on its nascent economy. This loss will now grow exponentially because it has snowballed into an energy crisis, resulting in a catastrophe for both industry and agriculture. The hydel to thermal ratio is 30:70, which should have been 70:30. Frustrated by our attempts to develop more hydropower, we started down a suicidal path and between 1988 and 1994 consummated an IPP policy based primarily on imported energy that was hazardous and unsustainable. Let us not forget that a very conservative estimate of our hydel potential is +65,000MW that is capable of generating annually over 350billion units (350,000 GWh). This is more than triple Pakistan’s electric energy generation in 2011. It is the responsibility of the Commission for Indus Basin Strategic Analysis (CIBSA) to educate the nation about these “hydro truths”. Pakistan now has less than 8 percent storage capability of its 145MAF annual surface-water flows. The role of sweet water also is central to the country’s financial sustainability and survival.

Global warming and the water bomb: Pakistan Commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW) Secretariat at Lahore deals with the cases related to the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) of 1960. The Commission works under the overall control of the Federal Ministry of Water and Power. The Indus River System Authority (IRSA), too, works directly under it and manages the distribution of Indus Basin waters to the provinces. Against this backdrop, the interprovincial water disputes became manageable after the signing of the Water Apportionment Accord (WAA) in March 1991 and the creation of IRSA as a result in 1992. However, both PCIW and IRSA, lack the required punch due to deficient technical depth and commitment. In the case of PCIW Secretariat, it is shamefully underequipped to face a diabolical, merciless and relentless upper riparian neighbour and depends blindly on India’s data. If one looks deeper, a direct Indian factor emerges yet again. The Indian organisation, International Commission for Irrigation and Drainage (ICID), established itself in 1950 and placed itself in a position of great influence with multilateral institutions and government agencies worldwide. Indeed, the ICID is a dangerous weapon. So, Mr Kamal Majidullah, beware.

The ICID has the tools to analyse the hydrologic cycle of the Indus Basin. In contrast, PCIW has constantly stated that it has no data on the inflows in the IHK rivers and streams. The question, however, remains: If the watershed in Kashmir is not understood, how does Pakistan expect to neutralise the Indian strategy? Secondly, every Indian move leading to the attrition of water flows into Pakistan is blamed on global warming. Yes, glacier retreat is going on everywhere, but this for the interim means more water in the rivers! This is just the rationale for the Northern River Linking Project of India; a |$212 billion project launched in 2006 based on the famous Prabhu report of 1999. It is the largest single irrigation project in the world. Hence, the proposed CIBSA becomes imperative. Let it (CIBSA) help us understand global warming and glacier retreat. Where is the expected increase in the inflow of Jhelum and Chenab? Nearly 40MAF additionally for the next 30 to 40 years were estimated. The Indians do not disclose this mystery; they showed their intention to install +28,000MW of hydel capability in IHK. The perceived water diversion surely needs to be analysed.

As a result of our ‘Closed Door’ talks in New Delhi during the end of July 2010, the Indians agreed to a joint watershed study in IHK. But how do we implement it, if there is no organisation in Pakistan to provide the expertise? We need a motivated team that can deal with all the techno-legal issues related to the IWT of 1960, especially to neutralise India’s violations and transgressions. The ridiculous decision made by the ‘neutral expert’ on Baglihar I is a contradiction of the basic spirit of the IWT. If the low level gates are permitted below the dead level under the pretext of silt excluder, then who will ensure that they are not misused; it is a dangerous precedent that cannot be accepted! There is no monitoring of the IHK hydro sites, which are no-go areas for outsiders. Can three bureaucrats or technocrats sitting in the PCIW Secretariat take on thousands in the ICID? The creation of CIBSA is, therefore, overdue by at least 52 years that is the age of the IWT. Let our engineers, scientists and technicians come forward to serve the CIBSA!

    The writer is an engineer and convenor of the Water Resource Development Council (WRDC) WRDC.