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India violating water laws

November 24, 2012

For an agrarian country such as Pakistan, water not only remains an essential component for life but for economic activity as well.

With depleting surface and ground resources and an overwhelming increase in both population and the use of water, the per capita water availability in Pakistan has decreased to threateningly low levels.

To add to this threat is the uncontrolled Indian desire to use its geographically advantageous position as an upper riparian to build dams upon the rivers that were allocated to Pakistan.

The ambiguities in the Indus Water Treaty have been exploited by the Indians to further advantage them.

The IWT is based on the distribution of rivers and not the waters while allotting the three western rivers Chenab, Jehlum and Indus to Pakistan and the three eastern rivers Ravi, Beas and Sutlej to India.

Furthermore, it allows Pakistan to draw a certain amount of water from the Indian allocated rivers for irrigating a small percentage of nearby lands and makes allowances to build hydroelectric power projects on them too.

The same goes for India as well. But it surely does not make any allowances for building any sort of reservoirs, dams etc for storage purposes.

India, however, uses the water from Western rivers flowing within its territory for irrigation and has been accused of constructing multiple projects for storing water, thus impacting Pakistan’s supply.

Pakistan has been opposing projects by India that violate water laws such as the Baglihar, kishenganga, Wullur projects etc that have built great water storage reservoirs.

And these reservoirs are storing water that ought to have been flowing into Pakistan, thus creating scarcity of the resource in Pakistan.

This surely calls for a revision in the IWT of 1960. In fact an IWT-2 is being demanded that may address the irregularities of the previous treaty keeping in view the latest issues that had not been taken into account five decades back.

It may require considering global climatic changes, issues of increased water scarcity, an increased usage of water due to growing urbanization, India’s heightened regional interferences, security issues, an increased threat of water-based wars etc.

The Pakistani government ought to take initiatives for correcting the situation before it goes out of hand. The Indian side too ought to view the issue beyond the immediate victory of parching the Pakistani soil. Civilisations cannot survive without water, and in case Pakistan dries up would India be able to handle the spillover effect into India and the entire region at large?

It would therefore be in the interest of South Asia that peace be maintained and that India, being the upper riparian, play its role according to international water laws to minimise water scarcity to reduce security threat at the regional level.

LUBNA UMAR Islamabad