Indo-Pak talks on Nimmo Bazgo project inconclusive


By Munawar Hasan

LAHORE: Pakistan and India have failed to evolve a consensus on the controversial Nimmo Bazgo hydel generation project, being built in held Kashmir on the Indus River.

“Unfortunately, we could not bridge differences over the Nimmo Bazgo project during the second round of talks,” said Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, Pakistan’s Commissioner for Indus Waters, here on Monday.

He said homework on various alternatives to project details of 45-MW Nimmo Bazgo could not be done in Monday’s talks. Owing to lingering of the issue, he added, discussions on the Chutak hydropower project could not be initiated.

As per the agenda of the three-day talks, negotiations on these projects should have been completed on Monday. Now discussion on Nimmo Bazgo and Chutak hydel power projects will continue in the Tuesday morning session.

According to the agenda items, Pakistan has also expressed serious concerns over the delay in provision of the projects’ details by India. Under the provision of the treaty, India is bound to give technical details of water sector projects to Pakistan six months before the initiation of construction. Pakistan was of the view that a greater period was required for the review of new projects on the western rivers in order to follow the provision of the treaty.

In many instances, the Pakistan’s commissioner said, details of projects were handed over to Pakistan late and in some cases India gave detail of project even after launching of the construction work. He stressed the need for expediting this process so that convergence could be achieved on these issues.

Shah asked India to ensure timely availability of river flow data to Pakistan. Pakistan’s demand to install the telemetry system on water sector projects was fortunately attracted patience hearing from the Indian side. However, India said this issue would be finalised after getting opinion from technical experts.

“There are several tributaries or nullah in Indus basin where measuring of water flow was not carried out routinely. On such sites, not observed or not recorded were mentioned in flow data,” Shah maintained. He admitted that there were a few sites on the Pakistani side where regular gauging of data was not done. However, he stressed as Pakistan was taking steps for regular measuring of flows, India, being upper riparian, should ensure measuring of the water flow. He said the Indian commissioner has assured that he would endeavour to get river flow data from all sites, which is an obligation under the Indus Waters Treaty.

Speaking on the occasion, Indian Indus Waters Commissioner Arangha Nathan said Pakistan raised certain objections to the projects being constructed by India during talks. “I will only say that we are complying with the Indus Waters Treaty,” he said and added that the objection raised by Pakistan would be looked into in due course of time.

About delay in communication of technical data of proposed projects by India, he said India always opted to give data to Pakistan in advance. He said it was not fair that Pakistan sought details of projects in response to publication of reports about new projects. Instead, he insisted, India is bound to provide technical data to Pakistan before actual initiation of the construction work on certain project.

Whenever, we got any query from the Pakistan side, the Indian commissioner said, we sought information from the company concerned and subsequently sent it in time to Pakistan. Answering a question, the Pakistan commissioner said there has been delay on the part of India in communicating project details. He particularly mentioned the Chutak Hydropower project, saying India did not give its information timely.

“These grey areas have to be addressed in order to make Indus Waters Commission a credible entity,” he stressed. Answering a query about changes in the design of the Nimmo Bazgo project in line with objections of Pakistan, the Indian commissioner said it is like cutting the head according to the size of cap or adjusting the cap as per size of the head. Giving details, he said various formulas had been described in the treaty for height of such projects which should be dilated upon. He said both the parties have different views on this project.

On the other hand, the Pakistan commissioner underlined the need for making the ongoing talks result-oriented, saying both Pakistan and India should reach conclusive outcome over construction of the Nimmo Bazgo project. “We should decide that whether we can resolve our differences on the platform of the Indus Water Commission or we should continue talks at the bilateral level of two governments.” Or, he maintained, we should seek intervention of a third party for ultimate resolution of project.

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