Azad Kashmir Spectator

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'Water Rights' on Jhelum River

India and Pakistan are both building hydroelectric dams along an upper branch of the Indus river, only 70 kilometres apart from each other. India is building 800MW power house on the Kishanganga River that originates in Indian Occupied Kashmir, with a plea to solve the problem of navigation over a distance of 22-kilometre between the Wullar Lake and Baramula connecting Srinagar with Baramula.

The Kishanganga river assumes the name of Neelum river upon entering in the Azad Kashmir region and becomes river Jhelum when it enters Pakistan. Pakistan is constructing 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project on the same river located in Azad Kashmir.

These two new hydroelectric power sources would provide some respite to the energy-hungry economies, however, as per IWT-60, there's only space for one hydroelectric plant in this part of the long-disputed Jammu and Kashmir valley. Therefore, the country which finishes its project first (Neelum or Kishanganga river) would get "priority rights" to the use of the river's waters.

As the competition develops- India has forecast completion for 2016 and Pakistan one year later - Pakistan hopes to edge past India's projected finish line by a consortium comprising China Gezhouba Water and Power Company to speed up progress.

At the same time, Pakistan is reaching out to international community to give them an edge over India and compensate for their geographical disadvantage. Pakistan, being the lower riparian state, faces geographical disadvantage.

It fears that India's Kishanganga project will have a devastating effect on its hydro-power plans, besides adversely affecting 1,33,209 hectares of agricultural land in Azad Kashmir. Pakistan believes that the Indian project can be used as: (a) a geo-strategic weapon - a means to intimidate Pakistan, (b) potential to disrupt the triple canal project of Pakistan (upper Jhelum, upper Chenab, Lower Bari Doab canals), (c) badly affecting the Neelum-Jhelum hydro-power project, (d) affecting agriculture in Azad Kashmir (e) would dry 5.6 million acres of lands of Punjab's cultivable land, in case Kishanganga water is blocked and the excess is diverted to Wuller barrage, (f) would result in load shedding, if Pakistan do not get enough water to run its turbines, (g) would dry Mangla dam. To stem these fears Pakistan must speed up to complete the project and secure priority rights for the river.

The water issues can be judiciously addressed by sharing the water as a "collective resource" for our future generations. Any major upstream alteration in a river system, should be negotiated, not imposed as in case of Indian water overtures on Jhelum river.

India should be more accommodating and considerate as an upper riparian. The two countries using water as a common resource should co-operate and open up a range of possibilities through "optimum development of the rivers" by "mutual agreement to the fullest possible extent."


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