India is building nine new dams of an estimated capacity of 1055 MW hydroelectricity generation, on the main Indus and Chenab Rivers, in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) and unfortunately neither the Ministry of Water Power (MOWP), nor the Ministry of Foreign affairs (MOFA) has taken up the case with government of India. In an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, eminent water and energy expert Arshad H Abbasi highlighting the matter of great national importance said that despite his repeated requests to MOWP no steps have been initiated to take up the issue with India. He requested PM to direct MOWP and MOFA to take up the issue of these projects and implement recommendations with Indian government in the best interest of Pakistan.
The letter says, “I humbly request you to call an inquiry into the matter to identify officials who are responsible for this gross negligence. They own a state within the state in the MOWP and implement their design to destabilise the country. They use energy scarcity as a tool while allowing India to build dams without the required scrutiny under the Indus Water Treaty. I expect that you will take serious note of this gross negligence of all those who take the repute of this country for granted and ignore such developments in IOK and secondly of those who do not take note of the abnormal and unnecessary delays in execution of 19 hydropower projects, with an installed capacity of 4325 MW, initiated under power policy 2002.Delay of these projects not only weakened the rights of Pakistan over Transboundary Rivers, but also caused serious energy crisis in Pakistan.” Had these projects been completed, the country would have never faced the gas crisis, the letter further added.
CREDIBILITY UNDER SCRTUTINY
Details of the projects provided in the letter say; India is building seven new dams on main Indus River, along with two other projects on Suru and Drass Rivers, in IOK. These projects have been offered to private sector for which modalities are being worked out. This work by the Indian side has been initiated sans due diligence on the project in the framework of Indus Water Treaty. This is to emphasize that we are left with a very short time to plead our case as both projects are likely to be completed in the next five years.
“Despite my repeated communication by fax and e-mail, I have never heard from the Adviser or the Additional Secretary MOWP. This raises severe doubts on the credibility of these officials who appear to be intentionally paving way for aforementioned projects of India, by ignoring the interest of Pakistan” the letter says adding that the projects on Chenab and Indus are classified as run-of-river projects. However, the treaty is not adhered to in letter and spirit, as these projects will have serious consequences for downstream areas of Pakistan.
The accumulative live storage of these projects would have adverse impacts both in terms of causing floods and running Chenab and other rivers dry in the lean period. It should also be noted that during the lean period Pakistan meets the demand of water from these rivers only. In a detailed meeting with Adviser MOWP and the then Additional Secretary MoWP in 2009, it was elaborated that the terms of the treaty explicitly bounds both countries to exchange all information and data related to the proposed projects to be installed on the Indus River System in IOK under Article VI.
DAM CLASSIFICATION AND FAILURE
According to ICOLD, dams having height of more than 15 meters are defined as large dams; therefore, all such dams are to be registered with the commission for dam safety. The judgment passed over Baglihar dam was based on the latest ICOLD bulletin of the commission while deciding the design of the spillways. India has been planning to start more than 67 dams for hydropower generation for a while and all these dams fall under the category of large dams. Unfortunately, dam-failure record of India has been the worst, as nine of its dams have collapsed. Jammu and Kashmir area is earthquake prone hence a minor failure can result in a catastrophe for the downstream areas.
Despite repeated requests to the then Adviser MoWP, for Environmental Impact Assessment Report of hydropower and other development projects being or to be executed within watershed of Jhelum, Chenab and Indus in IOK and Himachal Pradesh (HP), no data or relevant information has been shared. The report holds immense importance as it quantifies transboundary impacts of such projects, inline with the verdict given by the International Court of Justice (ICJ); as in the case of Gabcikovo– Nagymaros dam dispute between Slovakia and Hungary on the Danube River and paper mill decision between Argentina and Uruguay. In Baglihar Dam case, India in support of the dam’s design, annexed Gabcikovo– Nagymaros dam decision in its counter memorial. Therefore, having appraised the decision taken by ICJ, India is bound by law to share EIA of all hydropower projects with Pakistan before physical executions.
JOINT VENTURE NEEDED
Abbasi proposed that both the two countries, should agree to the fact that environmental threats respect no national borders. During the last three decades, watershed in IOK has been badly degraded. To rehabilitate watershed in IOK and HP, both countries are to take initiative for joint watershed management in these two states. Glaciers are important and a major source of Indus Rivers System; to preserve these glaciers; there is an immediate need to declare all Himalayan Glaciers as “Protected Area” including immediate demilitarisation from Siachen to preserve this second longest glacier of the planet, to fall in the watershed of the Indus River.