In a single-basin-country like Pakistan, life would be impossible even to contemplate without the Indus and its tributaries and their life giving waters. Soon after its creation in August 1947, Pakistan faced extreme and unpredictable miseries at the hands of India who claimed proprietary rights to the waters of eastern rivers passing through its territorial land and crossing Pakistan. An agreement was reached between India and Pakistan through a bilateral tribunal according to which status-quo of the flow of water in three eastern rivers Ravi, Sutlej and Beas would remain as such until 31st March 1948. On 1st April 1948, the day after the bilateral tribunal ceased to have effect India cut off the water supply in every canal crossing Pakistan. Pakistan rushed a delegation to Delhi to persuade India to refrain from such unilateral and disastrous action as its economy was a completely dependent upon these rivers. India and Pakistan signed an ad-hoc agreement on May 4th,1948 according to which India although agreed to resume water supplies to Pakistan as per sharing arrangements of pre 1947 but asserted to gradually decrease the same. Pakistan failed to obtain India’s consent to submit the matter for impartial determination of rivers water flow to International Court of Justice or any other impartial tribunal. According to India it was purely a technical problem requiring nothing more than a technical solution.

In 1951 the World Bank appeared on the scene and strongly advocated a joint exploitation of waters of Indus Basin as a solution of the inflammable dispute between two riparian countries. The bank offered its good offices in finding a practical solution in 1951. The two countries accepted the suggestion on the basis that existing uses should be respected. In 1954 the World Bank made the broad proposal that the six rivers be divided between the two countries and during the transitional period, Pakistan be allowed to get water supplies from India and the cost of replacement works in Pakistan be born by India in proportion to the benefits to be derived by her for use of waters of eastern rivers historically available in Pakistan. Transition period means the period during which Pakistan will construct replacement works to compensate the loss that will occur to her because India having the exclusive right to use water of the eastern rivers. There is a provision in the treaty that the transitional period may be extended at Pakistan’s request from 10 to 13 years. Originally it was thought that replacement works could involve only link canals, but detailed study established the need for storage dams. Accordingly the bank included water storages in 1956 in the replacement works projects. The same year the two countries formally accepted the bank’s proposal. Afterwards financial and technical issue remained in active discussions among World Bank, Pakistan and India.

In 1957 India declared that she will stop water flowing into Pakistan by 1962. Ultimately, friendly countries came forward with offers of financial assistance and through the realistic and urgent discussions taken by new regime headed by president of Pakistan General Muhammad Ayub Khan a settlement was arrived at, popularly known as Indus Water Treaty, which divides the Indus Basin watered by six rivers into two groups of three rivers each and allows India the exclusive use of the waters of three eastern Rivers Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas and Pakistan the use of three western rivers Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab. The drafting of the Treaty began in August 1959.

The replacement works will comprised of the following mega construction works; Mangla Dam on River Jhelum and Tarbela dam on River Indus. New barrages included: Chashma Barrage on River Indus, New Rasul Barrage on River Jhelum, New Marala Barrage on River Chenab, Qadirabad Barrage on River Chenab, Sidhni Barrage on River Ravi and Mailsi Syphon on River Sutlej. New link canals included: Chashma Jhelum Link Canal, Taunsa Punjnad Link Canal, Rasul Qadirabad Link Canal, Qadirabad Balloki Link Canal, Balloki Sulemanki Link Canal, Trimmu Sidhnai Link Canal, Sidhnai-Mailsi-Bahawal Link Canal, a well as remodeling if old link canals.

Very difficult and protracted negotiations which dragged on for 12 years between the two riparian countries ended on 19th September 1960. When Indus Water Treaty was signed at a simple yet graceful ceremony on the lush-green lawns of the President House Karachi (the then capital of Pakistan). 71 year old Pandat Jawahar Lal Nehru signed as Prime Minister of India. Tall and masculine Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan signed as President of Pakistan under the auspices of the World Bank.

Indus Water Treaty is duly considered the biggest irrigation project in human history. The disadvantages were that Pakistan was made dependent on the waters of only three western rivers and would suffer considerable quantum loss to the tune of 24MAF (million acre feet) annually arising out of the giving up of her right to waters of three eastern rivers. Water would have to be brought over long distances from the western rivers to feed the areas dependent on eastern rivers involving transit losses. The Ravi of romantic associations was reduced to a nullah to be fed with water of western rivers through link canals. Lastly, these canals would expose the areas they pass through to the risk of water logging.

The advantages outweighed the drawbacks. The construction of two mega dams facilitated control of floods, provided water for irrigation and production of cheap and clean hydelpower. Pakistan became independent in matters of irrigational needs and the interlinking of rivers by canals provided more rational utilisation of waters in all six rivers. Additionally, a sum of $50 million provided for drainage channels and tube wells augmented supplies and facilitated the much needed reclamation of water-logged-areas.