Fact box: Kishenganga Project
Recently, India won the legal battle against Pakistan regarding construction of Kishenganga Hydro Electric Project in North Kashmir.
What is the issue?
Pakistan had pleaded before the Court of Arbitration at The Hague that India’s construction of Project over Kishenganga was a violation of Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) signed in 1960.
What is the Project?
India is constructing Rs. 3600 crore, 330 MW, run-of-the-river, hydro-electric project on Kishenganga River (known as Neelam in Pak) which is a tributary river to Jhelum. The power project is under construction by the National Hydro Power Corporation in Gurez valley near Bandipura in north Kashmir.
What is the opposition from Pakistan?
- The project involves diverting waters from a dam site to Bonar Madmati Nallah, another tributary of Jhelum. Pakistan sees it a breach of India’s legal obligations owed to Pakistan under the IWT, as interpreted and applied in accordance with international law, including India’s obligations under Article III (2) (let flow all the waters of the Western rivers and not permit any interference with those waters) and Article IV (6) (maintenance of natural channels).
- Another objection is the use of modern drawdown flushing technique for the management of sedimentation on the dam. It requires waters to be brought below the Dead Storage Level. Pakistan had objected to the drawdown flushing apprehending that it will affect flows at its downstream Neelam project.
What was the award by the Court of Arbitration?
- The Court of Arbitration has allowed India to go ahead with the construction of the project in rejecting Pakistan’s plea that this was a violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.
- However, the court restrained India from adopting the draw down flushing technique for clearing sedimentation. India may have to adopt a different technique for flushing.
Is it for the first time Pakistan dragged India to international court on a river issue?
No. This was the second water dispute on which Pakistan dragged India to an international arena charging New Delhi with violation of the IWT. Earlier a neutral expert was appointed by the World Bank to adjudicate on the Baglihar dam built on Chenab River also located in Jammu and Kashmir.
What is Indus Waters Treaty?
After the partition of India-Pakistan, the issue of sharing of water of rivers originating from Indus basin surfaced. India had all the advantage of using the waters of the all six main rivers originating from either the Himalayan or the Chinese Tibet side. Pakistan was wary that since the sources of rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war.
During the first years of partition the waters of the Indus were apportioned by the Inter-Dominion Accord of May 4, 1948. As per this accord, India was required to release sufficient waters to the Pakistani regions of the basin in return for annual payments from the government of Pakistan. The accord was meant to meet immediate requirements and was followed by negotiations for a more permanent solution. However, neither side was willing to compromise its respective position thus the issue reached a deadlock.
Finally, head of both countries (India’s then PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Pak’s then President Mohammed Ayub Khan) came to negotiation table to sign the Indus Waters Treaty brokered by the World Bank. As per the treaty proposed by the World Bank, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej, which constitute the eastern rivers, are allocated for exclusive use by India before they enter Pakistan. However, a transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from these rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of Jhelum, Chenab and the Indus itself, allocated to it under the treaty. Similarly, Pakistan has exclusive use of the Western Rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus but with some stipulations for development of projects on these rivers in India. Pakistan also received one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the Eastern rivers. Now, as the moratorium is over, India has secured full rights for use of the waters of the three rivers allocated to it. The treaty resulted in partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters.