Shift in India’s Indus Waters Policy Following the terror attack in Pulwama, the government has decided to stop India’s share of waters in the Indus river system from flowing into Pakistan. The decision seems to indicate a new policy direction from the government in terms of the Indus Water Treaty.
What does the Indus treaty provide for?
- The Indus Waters Treaty of 1960 governs Indus water sharing between India and Pakistan.
- The Treaty gives India full control over the waters of the three Eastern rivers – Beas, Ravi and Sutlej.
- The waters of the Western rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – flow “unrestricted” to Pakistan.
- India is allowed to make some use of the waters of the Western rivers too under the provisions spelt out in the Treaty.
- This includes use of water for purposes of navigation, power production and irrigation.
- The two countries have permanent Indus Water Commissions that meet regularly, to share information and data, and resolve disputes.
How has water sharing been?
- India – Historically, India has not been utilising its full claims, neither on the Eastern nor on the Western rivers.
- On the Western rivers specifically, there has been no strong demand for creation of new infrastructure, either for hydroelectricity or irrigation.
- This is because the demand for irrigation has gone down over the years as many farmers in J&K moved to horticulture, from traditional crops.
- So, in effect, India has been letting much more water flow to Pakistan than has been committed under the Treaty.
- Pakistan – With India’s under-utilisation of its share, Pakistan has benefited more than it is entitled to under the Treaty.
- More than 95% of Pakistan’s irrigation infrastructure is in the Indus basin – about 15 million hectares of land.
- It has now become the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system, comprising over 60,000 km of canals.
- Three of Pakistan’s biggest dams, including Mangla, which is one of the largest in the world, are built on the Jhelum river.
- These dams produce a substantial proportion of Pakistan’s electricity.
What was India’s policy shift in 2016?
- After the devastating floods of 2014, the need for storage infrastructure as a flood-control measure was increasingly felt.
- But more seriously, a policy shift had happened in 2016, following the terrorist attack on Army camp in Uri.
- India had temporarily suspended regular meetings of the Indus Commissioners of the two countries after the attack.
- India decided to change the status quo and use more waters of the Indus rivers, which was also a measure to hurt Pakistan’s interests.
- India took up the task of revival of several projects that were either suspended or had remained on paper for several years.
- Many of these projects were in Jammu and Kashmir; others were in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
- Some of these projects were put on fast-track mode, declared national projects, and money was sanctioned to resume works.
- The notable ones are:
- 800MW Bursar hydroelectric project on the Marusudar river, one of the tributaries of the Chenab, in Kishtwar, J&K
- Shahpur-Kandi project in Gurdaspur, Punjab
- 1,856-MW Sawalkot project on the Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir
- Ujh project in Jammu and Kashmir
- Bursar will be India’s first project on the Western rivers to have storage infrastructure.
- In all, more than 30 projects are under various stages of implementation on the Western rivers, having got the final approvals.
- Besides these, other measures included –
- finalisation of a revised detailed project report
- granting of prompt environmental clearance
- disbursal for attractive rehabilitation packages for affected families
What are Pakistan’s claims?
- Even before India’s policy shift in 2016, Pakistan had been complaining of being denied its due share of waters.
- It has maintained that India had violated the provisions of the Treaty, especially in reference to many of the projects on the Indus rivers.
- It feels that the Treaty had failed to protect Pakistan’s interests and India had managed to manipulate the provisions in its favour.
- Resultantly, increasing number of objections was raised by Pakistan on the projects that are coming up in India.
- These include the Ratle project, the Pakal Dul dam, and Sawalkot, among others.
- But India observes that the main objective was to delay these projects, thereby forcing a cost escalation and making them economically unviable.
What is India’s recent decision?
- India has decided to exert much greater control over the waters of the Indus basin.
- However, it will continue to adhere to the provisions of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.
- A high-level task force was set up under the guidance of the Principal Secretary to the PM.
- This will ensure that India makes full use of the waters it is entitled to under the Treaty.