Sound bytes: ‘Scrapping the water treaty is no solution’

DESPITE wars and decades of general hostility, the Indus Waters Treaty between Pakistan and India has held for 54 years. The treaty has also survived allegations that India is 'stealing’ Pakistan’s water, and that India was behind the recent destructive flooding in the Chenab. On his return from India last week, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters, Mirza Asif Baig, spoke to Dawn. The following are his views:

Q. What was the purpose of your recent India visit?

A. We’re discussing five run-of-the-river hydropower projects that India plans to build, or is already constructing, on the western [or Pakistani] rivers. Four of those projects — Ratle, Pakal Dul, Lower Kalnai and Miyar — are on the Chenab and one — Kishanganga — on the Neelum [a Jhelum tributary]. We’ve some objections to the project designs and features and they have given us their justifications. These visits are important because they provide us exact information on the status of project construction, design features and site conditions.

Q. What are Pakistan’s objections to these projects?

A. They mostly pertain to violations of the design criteria spelled out in the treaty and the storage projects the Indians are building on the western rivers. So far, India has started construction work only on the Ratle hydropower project. The work on the remaining three projects on the Chenab is yet to begin. The treaty allows India to create storage of 2.85MAF [million acre feet] during normal river flows and increase it up to 3.7MAF to store floodwaters. The first such capacity of 0.09MAF is now being built at Pakal Dul.

Q. How valid are our objections?

A. Let me clarify that we aren’t objecting to India’s right under the treaty to construct run-of-the-river hydropower capacity; our concerns pertain to project designs. And in our view the designs violate the treaty’s design criteria — some very grossly and others significantly. We won’t reject reasonable justifications but we will also not forego the rights the waters treaty gives us.

For the complete article, please see