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Pakistan warns of aggressive campaign against India over IWT violations

Updated October 23, 2018

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Official expresses concern over dilly-dallying by New Delhi to facilitate Pakistani officials' visit to Chenab River. — Photo/File
Official expresses concern over dilly-dallying by New Delhi to facilitate Pakistani officials' visit to Chenab River. — Photo/File

ISLAMABAD: Amid dilly-dallying by India to facilitate a promised visit of Pakistani officials to the sites of its two hydropower projects — 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnal — Pakistan on Monday said it would launch an aggressive campaign to address its concerns over violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) by India.

“We do not foresee an inspection visit of (the two projects being executed by India over) Chenab River in the near future based on my telephonic discussions with my Indian counterpart,” said Pakistan’s Commissioner on Permanent Indus Water Commission Syed Mehr Ali Shah.

Speaking at a news conference with Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Mr Shah said the Indian water commissioner had promised on conclusion of the Aug 29-30 annual meetings to arrange a visit on Indian side of the Chenab River in the last week of September, but it was delayed to Oct 7-12 on the premise of local government elections in India-held Kashmir.

He said the Indian side did not honour its revised schedule as well, saying Panchayat elections were being held in held Kashmir after 20 years. Mr Shah said he wrote a letter of disappointment and then talked to his counterpart a few days ago on phone and based on that discussion he did not expect a visit soon.

Mr Vawda, who finally turned up for a briefing after five cancellations over the past few days, said he did not want to go into a threatening mode, but would launch an aggressive campaign at home and abroad as India had seriously violated the 1960 treaty to Pakistan’s disadvantage.

Official expresses concern over dilly-dallying by New Delhi to facilitate promised visit of Pakistani officials to sites over Chenab River

Without explaining, the minister said he would trap India to its own bluff card because the matter also pertained to Pakistan’s security and he was in the process of consultations with stakeholders to resolve the challenges with India on a war footing.

Mr Vawda said there were severe water theft cases in Sindh and he would ensure that the menace came to an end. He blamed the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for causing Rs300 million per day loss to the country for the delayed implementation of the Dasu hydropower project, saying the World Bank was issuing warnings to cancel the loan programme.

He said the PML-N government had delayed the project only because it did not want Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to benefit from it.

The minister’s claim was challenged by former minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal who said the previous government had in fact launched the project. Whatever was the delay in the project was because of the provincial government whose responsibility was to ensure land acquisition, he added.

Mr Vawda said the World Bank had expressed serious concern over the years of delay in construction work on the run-of-river Dasu hydropower stage-I project and warned that the loan which it had approved in June 2014 of $3.787 billion could lapse.

He said the project was planned to be completed by June 2021, but it could have been delayed until 2025-26 because of the bad planning of the PML-N government. He said that until now only seven per cent land could be acquired for the project.

The minister said a meeting between the steering committee and the World Bank had been pending since July. He said he personally visited the World Bank office on Monday and secured the NOC to proceed with the project.

The indirect impact of the delay, he claimed, was the imported LNG of $1.4bn that the previous government wanted to ensure, causing Rs112bn annual loss to the national economy. “We have taken Dasu project on priority and on a war footing and would try to complete the project by 2022 or 2023,” he said.

Water theft issues

On water theft issues, the minister said no amendment — whether it was 18th Constitution Amendment or any other law — would stop him from doing the right thing. He said he was facing threats and social media campaign since he raided and found underground water theft in Karachi. He said the managing director of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KSWB) did even have the time for a meeting to address water theft issues.

He said the telemetry system to record water flows had been stopped on the verbal orders of a previous government and the Indus River System Authority was not ready to take over its control because of its substandard equipment. “Till date, all these equipment are closed, which is an eye opener for Pakistanis. Now, nobody can know how much water a province is drawing from the system,” he added.

He said he was proposing a task force to install telemetry system for which the Sindh chief minister and law enforcement agencies would also be taken on board to control water theft. He alleged that politicians, landlords and KSWB officials were involved in the water theft.

Without naming anybody, he said their leaders were eating funds on different pretext and now under the 18th Amendment the funds were misused in the name of provincial jurisdiction. He said the 18th Amendment had some good things, but there should be a debate on it because there was a need for readjustments.

Mr Vawda said Darawat Dam in Jamshoro, Sindh, was completed with a cost of Rs11bn two years ago to irrigate 25,000 acres of land. But, he added, in reality it was only 10,000 acres.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar appreciated actions taken by the Ministry of Water Resources against illegal hydrants in the provinces and directed the provincial governments to support the federal minister concerned for achieving the required goals in this connection. Since the federal minister was facing security threats, the CJP had directed law enforcement agencies to provide adequate security to him, said a statement issued by the Supreme Court office.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2018

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