LAHORE - India yesterday refused to address Pakistan’s objection over designs of two hydropower projects on the River Chenab in Occupied Kashmir, resulting in end of two-day talks between Indus water commissioners of both the countries without any positive development.

According to sources, Pakistani delegation led by Indus Commissioner Syed Mehr Ali Shah declared Pakal Dul of 1,000MW and Lower Kalnai of 48MW construction a clear violation of Indus Water Treaty of 1960 while Indian side led by Commissioner Pradeep Kumar Saxena opposed Pak stand in talks.

The talks were held at the Nespak building in Model Town. No official media briefing was made at the end of the talks although a large number of journalists were present outside the building.

After the conclusion of talks, the first official engagement between Pakistan and India since Imran Khan became Prime Minister on August 18, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Syed Mehr Ali Shah told reporters that there would be no briefing and statement on the issue.

“It is a sensitive matter and we were conveyed (by the Foreign Office) not to speak on it. The Foreign Office will issue a statement in this regard,” Shah said.

The sources said Pakistani side asked India to reduce height of the Pakal Dul reservoir up to five metres and maintain its 40-metre height above the sea level. The objection was also raised on spillway gates of the project, they said, adding similar design objections were raised against the construction of Lower Kalnai.

Islamabad has been raising concerns over designs of the two projects since 2012. Both the projects were discussed at a meeting of two commissioners held in 2014. Both the commissioners shared the annual water releases data with each other and other technical issues.

The sources said it was a routine annual meeting of the two commissioners and nothing extraordinary could be expected from it. They added Pakistani side might be invited in near future for a visit to the two project sites.

Experts say that, keeping in view the past track record of India, it is expected that the issue will also be taken for international arbitration in near future.

Monitoring Desk adds: “We have categorically made it clear that we will have no option but to use international forums, [including] taking the case to the International Court of Arbitration, etc - in case India failed to address our concerns that are absolutely genuine and can be resolved amicably,” private TV channels reported, quoting an unnamed Pakistani official who attended the talks. “India has hinted at continuation of work on both the hydropower projects,” he said.

“Pakistan may approach the international forums defined in the Indus Waters Treaty over Delhi’s refusal to accept the requests as narrated in the detailed objections,” the official said.

Pakistan has made it clear that it will have no option but to appointment neutral experts and take the case to the International Court of Arbitration in case India fails to address its concerns which are genuine, he said.

Pakistan has also challenged the discharge series of River Lower Kalnai at Dunadi for winter months and estimated permissible pondage of 0.38 cubic megametres compared to Indian design pondage of 2.74 cubic megametres.

The Lower Kalnai project is on a left bank tributary of Chenab and can have gross storage of about 1,508 acre feet of water.

The Indian side assured Pakistanis of taking up the issues in the next meeting of the commission to be held in India. No date has been fixed for the next round of talks. The Indian delegation will return to India today.

Former Pakistan Indus Water Commissioner Syed Jamaat Ali Shah told India’s PTI news agency that the successive Pakistani governments had given much importance to its water disputes with India.

“India does not bother about Pakistan’s objections. It begins work on building hydropower projects on the Pakistani rivers and the Pakistani government raises objections afterwards. Unless the Pakistani government seriously takes up these matters with India it will not get relief,” he said, adding that Pakistan also needs to plead its case in the World Bank.

According to the treaty, Pakistan gets 131 million acre-feet of water annually, which provides almost 70 percent of Pakistan’s needs for irrigation. India, on the other hand, gets 26 million acre-feet of water from the three western rivers, which cope for less than 10 percent of India’s irrigation needs.

India has also been locked in a water tussle with China, which plans to construct its own dams and proposed diversion of the Brahmaputra River that originates in Tibet and provides a third of India’s needs for irrigation.

Islamabad has already approached the World Bank seeking its assistance in resolving the simmering dispute.

The World Bank in May this year said it was seeking an “amicable” solution to the water dispute between the two nuclear rivals.

It paused the process of negotiation in December 2016, to help India and Pakistan consider alternative approaches to resolve their dispute over the two hydroelectric plants. “We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Water Treaty,” the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim had said.

 

 

No breakthrough in

Pak-India water talks