LAHORE - Indus Water Commission (IWC) Chairman Mirza Asif Baig says International Court of Arbitration’s recent ruling on Baglihar Dam was wrong and controversial as it was against the provisions of Indus Water Treaty.

“The judgment in Baglihar (dam) case was bad, (and it was) given by bad judges who have controversial repute. Pakistan lost despite the fact that country’s case was contested well,” he told media persons here on Saturday after a seminar, organised by the Institution of Engineers Pakistan to mark the World Water Day.

The International Court of Arbitration’s (ICA) gave a verdict in favour of India after months of legal wrangling between Islamabad and New Delhi. India is going ahead with the Baglihar dam project, while Pakistan says that under the agreement between the two countries it did not have the right to set up a project which denied Pakistan its share of water. Islamabad is now considering other options to protect its rights.

IWC Chairman Mirza Asif Baig in his address stressed the need for depending on our own resources for building of large dams instead of relying on international donors like World Bank or Agriculture Development Bank (ADB). Pakistan can easily allocate Rs200-300 billion for construction of big dams, he said.

Pakistan, according to him, made several mistakes in finalising the Indus Water Treaty, signed in 1960. The agreement settled the longstanding dispute between the two arch rivals which both in later years achieved nuclear capability.

Pakistan, at present, has water storage capacity of just 9 percent (30 days) against international average capacity of 40 percent. India’s storage capacity can meet more than 100 days’ needs, he said. Moreover, lack of operational capacity did not let Pakistan take full advantage of the Indus Water Treaty which served India’s interests better.

He said that India fully utilised its resources in terms of money and technicalities, and built dams and barrages, thus becoming the main beneficiary of the Indus Water Treaty. The IWC chairman was of the view that the destruction caused by floods could have been averted if the country had invested more in dams. Baig believed Pakistan needed big dams on the Indus River.

IEP Lahore Centre chairman Engr Khalid Sajjad said new water reservoirs are crucial, given the country’s looming water and energy crises, against a backdrop of rapid urbanization, population growth, food insecurity and growing water demand from industry.

He said that dams facilitate water regulation and the increased storage capacity from building new reservoirs could store floodwater for productive use and lessen flood peaks downstream. He pointed out that dams also provide valuable water storage for agriculture and “if we can control water by investing in big dams, we can overcome the electricity crisis and improve our agriculture”.

Pakistan is fast becoming a water scarce country, as country’s per capita water availability is presently estimated at 950 cubic metres, quite a dip from 5,500 cubic metres in 1951,” said Khalid Sajjad. “If we continue business as usual, how will we meet the water needs of a growing population?” he asked, and warned, “We can lose the country without entering into a war with India if we did not build dams, especially KBD.”

Indus Water Council Pakistan Chairman Suleman Khan in his speech said that the Indus basin irrigates about 14 million hectares of land in Pakistan – the largest irrigated area in the world – for which a huge amount of water is needed. With only two existing major reservoirs in the Indus basin i.e. Mangla and Tarbela, the storage capacity of Pakistan is only about 30 days while most of the developed countries have 1-2 years water storage capability.

He favoured dams over solar and wind energy, as the multi-purpose dams do much more than electricity generation as seen in the case of the Tarbela and Mangla dams which expanded cultivable areas, he added. The seminar was also addressed by other speakers including Planning Commission convener Engr Ameer Zameer and Dr Javed Younus Uppal.