The IWT between India and Pakistan was sealed in 1960. The IWT, brokered by the World Bank, was signed between the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his Pakistani counterpart General Ayub Khan.
Provisions of Treaty
1. Indus river system comprises of 3 western rivers namely Indus, Jhelum and Chenab and 3 eastern rivers Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej.
2. According to this treaty; Ravi, Beas and Sutlej which constitute the eastern rivers are allocated for exclusive use of India before they enter Pakistan. However a transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from even these 3 rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of Indus, Jhelum and Chenab.
3. Similarly, Pakistan has been given exclusive use of western rivers namely Jhelum, Chenab and Indus but India has been allowed to undertake development projects with certain stipulations such as India cannot obstruct flow of rivers. Pakistan also received one-time financial compensation for loss of eastern rivers.
4. India and Pakistan also decided to exchange data and co-operate in matters related to the treaty. For this purpose, permanent Indus commission was created with a commissioner appointed from each country.
Can the treaty be revised or modified?
There is a provision for mediation and arbitration by a neutral umpire in case of any disagreement. The IWT has, so far, been implemented by both the countries faithfully. It has not gone for any modification till date, even though Article-XII of the IWT allows for any kind of modification when both parties agree.
Procedure of regulating the provisions of Indus Treaty
According to Article VIII of the Indus Waters Treaty, the Commission must meet once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan. 113th Meeting of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) was held in March 2017 after a gap of almost two years. The last meeting took place in May 2015.
As mentioned earlier, the IWT has, so far, been implemented by both the countries faithfully. It has not gone for any modification till date. It has even withstood 1965, 1971 and 1999 wars. However, few disputes have arisen over hydro-power and irrigation projects of India on Indus, Jhelum and Chenab which are meant for exclusive use of Pakistan. These disputes, if unresolved at Indus water commission level, are referred to neutral expert appointed by World bank, whose decision is binding and final.
Present status of water utilization by India
Ravi, Sutlej and Beas (Eastern Rivers) averaging around 33 million acre feet (MAF) were allocated to India for exclusive use. The waters of Western rivers – Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab average around 135 MAF. The waters of these rivers are allocated to Pakistan for exclusive use subject to limited use allowed to India.
India has under-utilised its share
India has constructed numerous dams and river interlinkages to utilize the waters of the Eastern rivers, which have been allocated for its exclusive use. For instance, India has constructed Bhakra Dam on Satluj, Pong and Pandoh Dam on Beas and Thein dam (Ranjitsagar) on Ravi. Apart from these dams, river linkages such as Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, Indira Gandhi canal etc have enabled India to utilize nearly 95 % share of Eastern rivers.
Greater benefits to Pakistan
Pakistan has benefited from India’s under-utilisation of its share of waters. Pakistan has very high dependence on Indus basin. 95% of Pakistan irrigation infrastructure relies on Indus basin. Pakistan is regarded as land of canals, comprising over 60,000 km of canals.
Pakistan’s three largest dams, including Mangla, are built on Jhelum- tributary of Indus. These dams contribute large proportion of Pakistan’s electricity.
Change in India’s polity after Uri terror attack
Post Uri, India decided to utilize larger share of its waters. Government decided to revive suspended projects and start new projects. Some of these projects are put on fast-track mode, declared projects of national importance, and money was sanctioned to resume suspended projects.
Utilization of Eastern rivers
Nearly 2 MAF of water annually from Ravi is unutilized, which flows to Pakistan. To completely utilize its share of Eastern rivers, India has taken the following steps:
1. Shahpurkandi project: Shahpurkandi project will utilize the waters released from Thein dam. The project, once established, will irrigate 37,000 hectares of land in J&K and Punjab and generate 206 MW of power. The construction of project was suspended in 2016 following dispute between Punjab and J&K. Presently, construction of the project has resumed after Central government mediation between the disputing states.
2. Ujh multipurpose project: Once operational, this project will store about 781 million cu. M. of water on river Ujh, a tributary of Ravi for irrigation in J&K and electricity. The project is yet to start. Once started, the project is expected to take nearly 6 years.
3. 2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh: This project involves construction of barrage across river Ravi to divert water through a tunnel to Beas basin. The project will divert excess water which is flowing to Pakistan, even after construction of Thein Dam. The project will facilitate utilization of about 0.58 MAF water.
The above three projects will enable India to utilize waters of the Eastern rivers completely.
Utilization of Western river waters
India is also working to utilize maximum waters of the western rivers with Indus treaty stipulations.
1. Bursar hydroelectric project: India has recently started construction work on 800MW Bursar hydroelectric project. The project is on the Marusudar river, one of the tributaries of the Chenab, in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir. Bursar is India’s first project on the Western rivers with storage infrastructure.
2. Pakal Dul project: Pakal Dul will be the largest Hydro Power Project in Jammu & Kashmir on completion. It will be a 1000 MW capacity water storage Project. In May 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the Foundation Stone of the Pakal Dul Power Project. It will be built on the Marusudar River, a tributary of the Chenab River, in Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan views the dam as a violation of the Indus Water Treaty.
3. Sawalkot project: Sawalkot project is 1,856-MW project on river Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir. The construction of the project is expected to start soon.
More than 30 projects have been approved on Western rivers. These projects are under various stages of implementation. Post Uri in 2016, many of these projects were started.
Disputes over projects
The waters of Eastern rivers are totally allocated to India. Thus, there are no disputes on the utilization of these waters by India.
However, Pakistan has often complained that many projects of India on western rivers have violated the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. On the other hand, India claims that these projects are within the stipulations of the treaty.
Over the years, the number of disputes associated with such projects has increased. Many of these disputes have been resolved under permanent Indus Water Commission.
Baglihar dam dispute was the first one that Pakistan referred to the World Bank. The World Bank has brokered the Indus Waters Treaty. Baglihar Dam is a run-of-the-river power project on the Chenab River in the southern Doda district of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The world appointed neutral expert adjudicated in favour of India.
Presently, there are two important projects which are disputed between India and Pakistan.
1. Kishanganga Project: The Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant is a $864 million dam which is part of a run-of-the-river hydroelectric scheme that is designed to divert water from the Kishanganga River to a power plant in the Jhelum River basin. Construction on the project began in 2007 and is expected to be completed soon. Pakistan took the project to the Court of Arbitration in 2010 claiming that the project violated the treaty. In 2013, the Court of Arbitration ruled India to go ahead with the project under the condition that a minimum water flow to Pakistan of 9 cubic metres per second is maintained. On several other issues, however, no agreement between the two countries could be reached. In May 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Kishanganga hydropower project.
2. Ratle Project: The Ratle Hydroelectric Plant is a run-of-the-river hydroelectric power station currently under construction on the Chenab River, downstream of the Ratle village in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir. The project includes a 133 m tall gravity dam. Water from the dam will be diverted through four intake tunnels about 400 m away from power station. In 2013, the construction of the project was started. The project is expected to be complete soon. Pakistan opposes the project on the ground of violation of the Indus Water Treaty.
Apart from the above projects, Pakistan has raised objections on many other projects. It is said that Pakistan seeks to delay these projects, which will increase the cost of these projects and make them unviable.