India stealing Pakistan’s water

Sultan M Hali

Water in Pakistan’s rivers has touched perilously low levels. The reason for it is not just lack of rains. India is controlling the water flow of rivers that flow from India into Pakistan, especially the Indus, Chenab and Jhelum rivers that pass through India’s Jammu & Kashmir state.

Pakistan has raised objections to Indian water projects, but a World Bank-appointed neutral expert rejected most of the Pakistani objections, especially with regard to the Baglihar Dam on Chenab River, while also advising India to make some changes to the dam’s height. Pakistani commentators, pressure groups and religious leaders are convinced that India is controlling the river waters to strangulate Pakistani agriculture, which could affect Pakistani exports and increase its dependency on food imports. Pakistani commentators fear future war with India may break out over water disputes. There is a realization in Pakistan that the 1960 Indus Water Treaty that establishes legal framework for use of river waters has been to the advantage of India. However, Pakistani authorities are raising the issue of water sharing between the two nuclear neighbours.

The Indus Water Treaty sets out the legal framework for the sharing of the waters of six rivers: the Indus and its five tributaries. All six rivers – Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi – flow through northern India into Pakistan. Under the pact, the waters of three rivers – the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum-are to be used by Pakistan, while India has rights to the waters of the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi before these three enter Pakistani territory. The Chenab is the key tributary, as it carries the waters of the rest four rivers into the Indus. The complicated origins of the Indus river system plays a key role in the water debates, as the rivers originate in and pass through a number of countries. According to the Indus Water Treaty, the following three rivers are for use by Pakistan:

The Indus River originates in Chinese-controlled Tibet and flows through Jammu & Kashmir. The Chenab originates in India’s Himachal Pradesh state, travels through Jammu & Kashmir. The Jhelum rises in Jammu & Kashmir and flows into Pakistan, finally joining Chenab. The Treaty affords India use of the following three rivers:

The Sutlej originates in Tibet, flows through Himachal Pradesh and Punjab before joining the Chenab. The Beas and the Ravi originate in Himachal Pradesh state and flow into Pakistan, emptying into the Chenab. Taking into account the flow of the rivers, the importance of the Chenab and the Indus becomes clear. The Chenab combines the waters of four rivers, the Jhelum, the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi, to form a single water system which then joins the Indus in Pakistan. The Indus River is considered to be the lifeline of Pakistani economy and livestock. Pakistani concern regarding the water from the rivers started in the 1990s after India began constructing a hydroelectric power project on the Chenab River in the Doda district of Jammu & Kashmir. Since the Chenab is the key tributary of the Indus, Pakistani policymakers, religious and political parties, and political commentators feared that India could exert control over the waters. Such control could be used to injure the Pakistani economy and livestock, or could be used to cause floods in Pakistan by the release of water during times of war.In early 2009, it was estimated that Pakistan is on the brink of a water disaster, as the availability of water in Pakistan has been declining over the past few decades, from 5,000 cubic meters per capita 60 years ago to 1,200 cubic meters per capita in 2009. By 2020, the availability of water is estimated to fall to about 800 cubic meters per capita.

Pakistan is also estimated to be losing 13 million cusecs [approximately 368,119 cubic meters/second] of water every year from its rivers into the sea, as it does not have enough reservoirs or dams to store water.

During the past two years, the debate in Pakistan about the Indian water projects in Jammu & Kashmir has gained a bitter momentum, as Pakistani leaders have begun to describe India as their eternal enemy and accuse India of trying to suffocate the Pakistani economy. The construction of the Baglihar Dam Baglihar dam has also raised Pakistan’s defense security concerns. A number of canals, drains and artificial distributaries used for irrigation purposes are crucial during times of war. The strategic importance of the Indian water projects in Kashmir is significant because the projects could wreak havoc… if the said dams were to collapse or malfunction.

It is feared that if India continues to take Pakistan’s share of water it could turn Pakistan into another desert. On the other hand, Indian influence in Afghanistan is growing, causing alarms in Pakistan that India will gain control over the water from two Afghan rivers that flow into the Pakistan border regions, where water shortages could inflame local insurgencies. Indian investment in Afghanistan has doubled since 2006, to $1.2 billion, and up to 35 percent of that is going into canals for local irrigation, as well as hydroelectric dams that will supply power to Iran and Turkmenistan, India’s gateways to Central Asia and the Gulf. India has used water as a weapon against Pakistan before. The fear now is that India will use the Afghan dams to deny Pakistan’s border regions the water they need to sustain their farms and hydropower projects.

The sad part is that successive Pakistani governments have failed to take cognizance of the impending water crisis and have not addressed the construction of dams, resulting in water shortage as well as acute energy deficiency. The current dispensation in the government is also neither taking up the cudgels against India for ensuring that it gets fair and equitable share of water nor tackling the looming water shortage by educating the people into the discipline of water rationing and frugal use of the scare resource thus contributing to the ominous disaster.


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One Response to “India stealing Pakistan’s water”

  1. neel123 Says:

    @ Sultan M Hali,
    Is Pakistan’s name written on the water, you mother fu**er … !

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