Indus Water Treaty (IWT) losses

It is Indus Water Treaty (IWT) again that J&K state is making noise about. There is a list of issues which the state keeps on projecting to keep the public in good humor and it is meant to indicate that state indeed has concerns, it wants to pursue. However, no issue, be it the AFSPA, the state deals with NHPC, or IWT recoveries has been logically concluded.



The state may be serious enough or claim to be so, the odds might be difficult to overcome, the fact however stands that the overall scorecard of the state does not make a cheerful reading, it is quite low.  
In the current month—April, at the very start of it, the State Cabinet approved engaging a consultant for quantifying the losses suffered by Jammu and Kashmir on account of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) which was signed between India and Pakistan in 1960. The IWT was brokered by World Bank between India and Pakistan and signed in September 1960. The issue relates to Indus basin-the eastern and the western tributaries of what has been described as the largest irrigated area of any one river system in the world. The network of canals and storage facilities build over a century provided the wide expanse of irrigation facilities from what was narrow strip of irrigated land along Basin Rivers.

The irrigation facility thus extended to reportedly 26 million acres (figure quoted of yesteryears, could be more). This was a shared facility across northwest of the subcontinent-Punjab and Sind. The rivers ended in the bosom of Arabian Sea. Partition of the subcontinent, what was called British India necessitated sharing of waters. Apart from British India, some states were involved-mainly state of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab.  

IWT is a water-sharing agreement under which India has an exclusive right over the waters of the three major eastern rivers – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej before they enter Pakistan, while as Pakistan has rights over three western rivers – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab – that flow through J&K. The treaty has withstood two wars and numerous other conflicts and confrontations between the two countries. However it restricts J&K from fully exploiting its hydro-resources for irrigation and power generation. Except for run of the river projects, J&K state may not use the water which flows through the state. The state has over the years suffered losses to the tune of thousands of crores. The cabinet has approved hiring M/s Halcrow Consulting India Limited, a part of M/s Halcrow Group of UK for assessing the losses. Halcrow was the only company which had offered its services. The cabinet met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and approved a proposal by J&K Power Development Corporation for hiring Halcrow for assessing the losses.

It may be asked what the group is going to assess, what has not already known. Indus Water Treaty [IWT] has had an adverse bearing on JK state’s irrigational potential. Notably, a report prepared by International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo in collaboration with Sir Rattan Tata Trust, Mumbai, in March 2005 had said that Indus Water Treaty signed by India and Pakistan in 1960 has put Jammu and Kashmir  behind by an estimated Rs 6,500 crore annually. The treaty has also badly hit the power generation and agriculture potential in the state, the report has added. JK state thus has been at the receiving end of this treaty, which in essence is Punjab centric. There are varying figures about the loss to the state due to the IWT. One such figure puts it around Rs 20,000 crores.

MP Rajya Sabha from Kashmir Ratanpuri’s question on IWT got a stunning answer from Pawan Bansal, the union minister of water resources in the recent past. “No state government” answered the minister “has ever requested the central government to renegotiate this Treaty or assess losses and compensate the state accordingly, ever since it was inked”. This is in spite of state government’s expressed concern, the hype over the last year or two.  It seems to be ‘much ado about nothing’. The state clearly failed to pursue July, 2011 recommendation of ‘State Finance Commission’ [SFC] implying that Jammu and Kashmir should seek compensation for the losses incurred by it on account of Indus Water Treaty [IWT] from not only India but Pakistan as well. The state government had on number of occasions in the past said there was a need to get the losses quantified so that the issue could be taken up with the Central Government to seek compensations, however it seems from Pawan Bansal’s answer that state government has never approached or broached the subject with central government.

Mahmoud Rehman led three men SFC in its report pointed to IWT bottlenecks impeding growth and development of J&K State. Consequently it recommended the cost of shortfall chargeable from signatories to the treaty needs to be estimated from September 1960 to August 2010. Working Group on Economic Development in J&K headed by Dr Rangarajan had recommended special grant for development of various power projects in the state and enhancement in free component of power from NHPC-run projects in the state to compensate J&K on account of the IWT losses.

The Monitoring Committee headed by Economic Advisor to the Government to see implementation of various recommendations of Rangarajan Committee had suggested for assessing the IWT losses. There is no evidence to prove that state moved on recommendations of either Mahmoud Rehman led three men SFC or on Dr. Rangarajan’s report. As far as Delhi officialdom is concerned—be it the AFSPA, the losses that the state has suffered because of Punjab centric IWT or the swindling that NHPC indulges in exploiting state’s hydro-electrical resources, it conveniently looks the other way. And state can do nothing about it.

As reported, acting on the directions, the JKPDC invited tenders in 2010 and again in 2011 due to poor response. However both the times only Halcrow offered the services. The state sources relate that the loss assessment on professional lines will reinforce the state’s claim for compensation besides building pressure on New Delhi on the issue. Now that the state government has expressed seriousness by engaging Halcrow, it may expect an accurate assessment. Once the state gets to know it, going by the past experience, what is the guarantee that state would forcefully protect its interests? It would remain a hope and a prayer that the money spent on engaging Halcrow would not go waste, as has happened so often in the past.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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