LAHORE: Pakistan expects a decision from the World Bank within next 15 days on its petition seeking change in designs of two Indian run-of-the-river hydropower projects — Ratle and Kishan Ganga — through constitution of a court of arbitration under the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT).

Pakistan had objected to the construction and design of the 850MW Ratle and 330MW Kishan Ganga hydropower schemes, saying that both the projects would have adverse impacts on the flow of Chenab and Neelum rivers.

The two projects are being constructed by India on the Chenab River, downstream of the village of Ratle in Doda district and Kishan Ganga River (called Neelum River downstream in Pakistan) near Bandipor in Jammu and Kashmir, respectively.

“Since the World Bank acts as a facilitator to resolve any issue between Pakistan and India, we had visited the bank’s headquarters in Washington (USA) about 20 days ago in view of the proceedings it initiated on our petition seeking constitution of a court of arbitration under the IWT for giving a decision on our objections,” says Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters Mirza Asif Baig.

A team of technical and legal experts headed by the attorney general of Pakistan had appeared before the World Bank’s officials after India didn’t acknowledge its objections on the two projects’ designs. The differences on the designs of the two projects had been discussed many a times in the meetings of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters, comprising one commissioner from each country, which is responsible for the implementation of the treaty, but to no avail. Secretary-level talks were also held between the two countries time to time, but concluded without any outcome.

Mr Baig, who was also a member of the delegation, said Pakistan presented its case well, stating that the methodologies being adopted in the construction of the dams would surely affect flow of the western rivers in general, including the two in particular. And since the case was sort of technical as well as legal, it must be heard by a court of arbitration that can be constituted under the IWT provisions, the commissioner added while talking to Dawn on Sunday.

According to him, India has almost completed civil work of the Kishan Gang dam, while the construction of Ratle hydropower project has not yet started after the contractor left the job due to international litigation initiated by Pakistan.

The Indian delegation also appeared before the WB officials and rejected Pakistan’s stance for constituting a court of arbitration. “India opposed our stance, stating before the WB officials that there was a need of appointing some neutral experts under the treaty and not the court to resolve the issue. However, the bank has heard us as well as India in detail and we hope that it will order for the court we have sought under the treaty,” he explained.

Talking about media reports of the IWT suspension by India unilaterally, Mr Baig termed it a tactic to bring Pakistan under pressure. The treaty is a bilateral agreement between the two countries and none of them could suspend it unilaterally. However, it can be suspended, revised or ended if both the countries agree to make a new treaty on Indus waters. “After the media reports, there were some official vibes from India that the IWT is not suspended. So the treaty is still intact,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn October 24th, 2016