Indus Waters Treaty Current Affairs

114th Permanent Indus Commission meeting held in Delhi

The 114th meeting of the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) between India and Pakistan was held in New Delhi. Representatives from both sides discussed Indus Water Treaty (IWT) dispute and resolution of outstanding issues.

India’s Indus water commissioner PK Saxena and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) officials were part of Indian delegation for annual meeting. Pakistan’s six-member delegation will be led by Syed Muhammad Mehar Ali Shah.

Background

The meeting took place in backdrop of continuing tension between two neighbouring countries over host of issues, including alleged harassment of diplomats. Pakistan has been expressing concerns over India’s Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Ratle (850 MW) and Lower Kalnai (48 MW) projects — located in Chenab basin – contending they violated IWT, signed in 1960. India, however, has been maintaining that designs of these projects are very much in accordance with IWT.

Permanent Indus Commission (PIC)

The Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) was signed in 1960.  It covers the water distribution and sharing rights of six rivers of Indus river system viz, Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. The treaty specifies that waters from three western rivers viz. Indus, Jhelum and Chenab are reserved for Pakistan, while waters from eastern rivers viz. Ravi, Sutlej and Beas  are for reserved for India.

The PIC is established mechanism under IWT. Its mandate is to establish and maintain cooperative arrangements for implementation of water distribution pact and promote cooperation in development of Indus water systems between India and Pakistan. The meeting of PIC is held alternately in India and Pakistan at least once every year as mandated by treaty. The PIC had last met in Islamabad in March 2017.

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India can construct Kishanganga, Ratle Hydro Power Plants: World Bank

World Bank has allowed India to construct Kishanganga, Ratle hydroelectric power facilities on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers with certain restrictions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

The World Bank’s comments came as officials from India and Pakistan concluded the secretary-level talks on the technical issues of the IWT in Washington, US.

Key Facts

Pakistan had opposed the construction of the Kishanganga (Jhelum River) and Ratle (Chenab River) hydroelectric power plants built by India in Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries had disagreed over the technical design features of the two hydroelectric plants, as these two rivers are part of “Western Rivers” along with Indus River under. IWT has given Pakistan full control over these three western rivers for unrestricted use. Besides, it also allows India to construct hydroelectric power facilities on these rivers along with other uses, subject to constraints specified in annexures to the treaty.

Background

Due differences over these projects, Pakistan had asked World Bank to facilitate the setting up of a Court of Arbitration to look into its concerns. On the other hand, India had asked for the appointment of a neutral expert to look into the issues, citing that concerns raised by Pakistan were “technical” ones. After that, representatives of the World Bank had held talks with India and Pakistan to find a way out separately.

About Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)

IWT is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan which was brokered by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). It deals with sharing of water of Indus water system having six rivers — Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum between the two countries.

It was signed by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Karachi on September 19, 1960. It is most successful water treaty in world. Even, it has survived India-Pakistan wars of 1965, 1971 and the 1999 Kargil standoff besides Kashmir insurgency since 1990.

As per treaty, control over three eastern rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej was given to India. While control over three western rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab was given to Pakistan. It allows India to use only 20% of the water of Indus river, which flows through it first, for irrigation, power generation and transport.

Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. Under it, Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing. Besides, treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably. The World Bank’s role in relation to “disputes” and “differences” with respect of IWT is limited to the designation of people to fulfil certain roles when requested by either or both of the parties.

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