Hydropolitical tensions between two nuclear states


Farasat Ali

Trans-boundary river management is a historical challenge between river basins sharing countries across the globe. Climate change and rapid population growth adds to further conflicts and demand of water. Hydropolitical conflicts over distribution of water and river resources are key challenges in South Asia. South Asians countries often traditionally cooperate on major trans-boundary river basins but serious concerns have been emerging on current water allocations and developments in upper catchments of these rivers. Trans-boundary river conflicts and hydropolitical tensions have been increasing between India and Pakistan over time. After long negotiations both countries agreed to sign the “Indus Water Treaty” (IWT) in 1960 with the help of World Bank (WB).

The IWT under Article II allocated three eastern rivers (Sutlej, Ravi and Beas) to India and under Article III the western rives (Indus, Chenab and Jhelum) to Pakistan. Although, under the Article II (3) and Annexure-B allows Pakistan to use certain amount of water from the selective tributaries of Ravi viz., Basantar for 100 acres land cultivation annually. Further, Pakistan can access more tributaries  in floods season  viz., Basantar, Bein, Tarnah, Ujh for the cultivation of 14,000, 26,600, 1,800 and 3,000 acres land respectively. Similarly, Article III(2)(c) allows India to use water from Ranbir and Pratap canals of the River Chenab for agricultural activities. From aforementioned Chenab River canals, annually India can withdraw maximum 1000 cusec from mid April to mid of October and 350 cusec from mid October to mid April respectively.

Further, India also can use water from western rivers in those areas which were already irrigated before IWT of 1960s was signed. Hydropower production by India on western rivers is also very clear under Article  III (2)(d)  and detail explanation can be found in Annexure-D. The hydropower storage, general storage and flood capacities storage are very clear in Annexure-E. Then from where hydropolitical tensions has been emerging between neighbouring states?, answer is very simple from the existing cascade and planned hydro-power projects of India on western rivers, high demand of water at both sites and climate change impacts on these river basins. Currently, India has planned more than 250 hydropower projects singly on Chenab River Basin and these projects are raising serious concerns in Pakistan.

For record nor India not Pakistan can withdraw from the IWT of 1960, because in all 12 Articles and 8 Annexures of treaty there is no any single provision for any state to withdraw from the treaty. Additionally, the WB grantee is covalent-bond otherwise Modi regime is ideal time for India to withdraw any accord or treaty with Pakistan. The IWT is complete package according to its time and age except few missing things viz., environmental considerations and climate change impacts on these river basins which were emerged after 1960s. However, being a upper riparian state India have several advantages as compared the Pakistan i.e., control on river catchments, geographical feasible areas to control water flow and strong economy. Then what is the way forward for Pakistan? it is simple we need focus on IWT, its articles and annexures to solve our outstanding issues rather than on media talk shows to solve our problems. Since the IWT have very strong directions under Article IX of the treaty to settle-down all outstanding differences and disputes between two states on water distribution. Lastly, Pakistan have enough water resources for its usage but we have several weakness our own side to manage available water resources i.e., limited water storage capacity, modern hydrological monitoring system, lack of national harmony to developed new dams and financial challenges etc.

The author is Ph.D. student of Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences

He can be reached by email at farasatwwf@yahoo.com




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