Water wars

May 14th, 2011 | By | Category: Agriculture, Government Policies, India, Pakistan, River, Water

India and Pakistan seem to be on a collision course around the issue of water. In the last 26 years, the two countries have held 13 rounds of secretary-level talks on the issue of India’s right to build the Wullar Barrage. At this week’s 14th round of talks, both sides, as expected, showed little flexibility: Indian secretary Dharwajay Singh stressed India had the right to build the barrage under all conditions and Pakistan held that the construction of Wullar Barrage, or any other project that resulted in Indian control over the River Jhelum, was unacceptable. The storage capacity of Wullar, at 0.30 million-acre feet, is a violation of the Indus Water Treaty. Pakistan is also quite alarmed by India’s plan to build 12 hydropower projects on the Kabul River in Afghanistan which experts say will seriously increase Pakistan’s water woes. In another violation of the IWT, India has managed to get approval from the UN for carbon credits for the controversial Nimmo-Bazgo and Chuttak hydropower projects. As per rules of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India is bound to get trans-boundary environmental impact assessment reports from Pakistan to earn carbon credits on these projects. This it has not done.

Agriculture makes for a smaller percentage of GDP for India than for Pakistan. As a lower riparian, Pakistan is sensitive to any hint that something done upstream might cause it to lose its share of water. But there is no indication that India realises these sensitivities. Hawks on both sides predict that India and Pakistan may fight a water war in the near future – such a doomsday scenario may be exaggerated at the moment but the argument is increasingly gaining sway, especially in light of ostensibly aggressive Indian moves. Water is increasingly being elevated to ‘core’ status, not quite rivaling Kashmir in intensity but likely to get there if current trends persist. Water thus, more than ever before, requires joint management. Pakistan and India need creative solutions to the political stalemate that could move from water management to broader bilateral rapprochement. A holistic approach to water resources – one that recognises the interaction and economic linkages between water, land, the users, the environment and infrastructure – is necessary to evade an impending water crisis in the subcontinent. Whether politics will follow water or water sharing precedes the complementing politics, a successful, long-term, comprehensive resolution in the region, especially to the Kashmir conflict, will be impossible without dealing with water. Water will indeed be the carrier of concord between India and Pakistan. Source>>

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