ISLAMABAD: Intelligence agencies seized on Friday the record of at least two federal ministries to investigate an alleged institutional lapse in raising objections over Indian aggression on the country’s water rights and securing international carbon credits on hydropower projects disputed by Pakistan. According to sources, the agencies came into action after receiving reports that the ministries of water and power and environment had absolved themselves of negligence in the matter. They said arrests of some officials could not be ruled out.
While inter-ministerial correspondence over the lapse continued for over nine months, the crucial objections over adverse environmental impact of the projects nearing completion on the Indian side had not yet been officially taken up with New Delhi, the sources said.
They said the ministry of water and power had said it was not responsible for the lapse because it was the job of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an environmental impact assessment.
The ministry said it had no role in ratification of trans-boundary impact assessments, whose documents had not been shared with it.
On the other hand, the environment ministry washed its hand of the matter, too.
It said that since the Indian projects were of a strategic nature, it could not have intervened unless its attention had been drawn to the issue and professional advice sought.
The sources said the intelligence agencies had also taken away the record of the ‘Manual of responsibilities -- Indus Water Treaty 1960’ issued by the office of the commissioner for Permanent Indus Commission in 1971.
The 72-page manual defines the responsibilities of the ministries of defence, interior and Kashmir affairs, industries and natural resources, the Met department, provincial governments, the railways and the Water and Power Development Authority. The names of several ministries have since been changed and some new institutions created.
Following a Dawn report in July last year, the prime minister’s office asked the ministries of water and power, foreign affairs and environment how India had secured carbon credits from the United Nations for the Chutak and Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower projects being built in violation of the treaty.
These ministries were taken by surprise over India’s success in getting carbon credits without clearance by Pakistan of cross-border environmental impact assessment reports of the projects despite Islamabad’s representative heading a forum of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that approved such credits.
The National Assembly’s climate change committee also got briefings from officials of the ministries of water and power and foreign affairs and urged the prime minister to ascertain “how this criminal negligence took place”.
Water and Power Secretary Javed Iqbal ordered an inquiry, led by a joint secretary, to establish how officials of the ministry and Pakistan’s permanent Indus water commissioner had delayed pursuing technical objections over not only these two projects but also over a number of others being built by India. These projects include the Kishanganga hydropower plan, which has now been taken up with the international court of arbitration.
Under the UNFCCC mechanism, carbon credit cannot be granted for a project having a cross-boundary environmental impact unless cleared by the countries concerned.
Officials said the main concern was that how India secured the credits in disregard of Pakistan’s objections over the projects at the Permanent Indus Water Commission and whether some officials had knowingly or unknowingly allowed trans-boundary EIAs.
They said the lapse might have already compromised the country’s opposition to the projects.
The under-construction 42-metre high Chutak hydroelectric project is located on the Suru River, a tributary of the Indus, in the Kargil district of Indian-held Kashmir. The 57-metre high Nimoo-Bazgo project is being developed in the Leh district on the Indus. Both projects were launched in 2005 and are nearing completion.
Under Clause 37(b) of the UNFCCC, it was mandatory for India to get approval from Pakistan before getting carbon credits, but it has been earning the credits on the projects for two years under a ‘clean development mechanism project’.
The projects were approved by the UNFCCC in August 2008 and India had applied in March 2006.
It was mandatory for India to get ratified from Pakistan the environmental assessment reports of both projects to earn carbon credits, but their ‘project design documents’ were approved by CDM’s executive board of the UNFCCC.
India claimed in its validation report that trans-boundary environmental impacts had been considered in accordance with procedures laid down in Clause 37(c) of CDM modalities and procedure.