ISLAMABAD: In a final award in the Kishanganga dispute, the Hague-based International Court of Arbitration (ICA) has determined a minimum flow of water that India will maintain for Pakistan’s Neelum-Jhelum hydroelectric project.
As a result of this decision, Pakistan will now receive the minimum flow of 9 cubic metres per second (cumecs) into the Neelum/Kishanganga River below the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant (Khep) at all times.
Still, the decision is not totally in Pakistan’s favour because India has got access to at least half of the average flow at the site of Khep from December to February. This means Pakistan will get half the water of the dam during driest months of the year.
The court ruled that India could not take water to a very low level in the dam.
India had sought full diversion of the river water, but Pakistan challenged it in May 2010 in the ICA. The court granted the stay and stopped India from constructing the 330MW Kishanganga hydroelectric project in occupied Kashmir.
The partial award in the dispute was announced in February this year, restricting India to a minimum flow of water diversion to Khep and rejected New Delhi’s claim of full diversion.
Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif termed the judgment a ‘big victory for Pakistan’.
He said in a statement that the ICA had accepted Pakistan’s right to the water as riparian state on waters of Kishanganga.
He said the decision also established Pakistan’s right over the water of Jhelum and Chenab rivers. It “will safeguard our water rights in future as well”.
Pakistan’s case was prepared by a legal team comprising Prof James Crawford, Prof Vaughan Lowe, Shamaila Mahmood and Samuel Wordsworth.
The court has also decided that the figure of minimum water flow might be reconsidered after seven years from the first diversion of the river.
Indian experts had expressed the view that 2-3 cumecs were sufficient for environmental requirement.
But the court rejected India’s highest figure of minimum flow of 4.25 cumecs and awarded 9 cumecs which will favour Pakistan in terms of flow of water for Neelum-Jhelum power project.
Now Pakistan will not be denied its rights to some of the waters of the river from December to February.
At the same time, it is clear that inaction and delays have compromised Pakistan’s right and expectation to receive the full flow of all water available throughout the year.
India had conveyed its intention to Pakistan for construction of Khep in 1994, but took no action till 2010. According to the final award, Pakistan has failed to provide estimate of lift irrigation in the Neelum-Jhelum with respect to agricultural use. So agriculture could not become part of the consideration of determining the minimum flow of water.
The final award has established that the diversion of water by Khep would have a direct effect on Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project.