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Post at: Sep 07 2021

Indus Water Treaty

Why in News?

  • A parliamentary panel urged the government to renegotiate Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan, in the light of present-day challenges such as climate change.
  • The report noted that "present-day pressing issues such as climate change, global warming and environmental impact assessment were not taken into account by the treaty", which had otherwise "stood the test of time".


Indus Water Treaty

  • As per the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan in 1960, all the waters of the eastern rivers- Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - are allocated to India for unrestricted use. The waters of western rivers - Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab -  have been assigned largely to Pakistan.
  • According to the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through run-of-the-river projects on the wastern rivers, subject to specific criteria for design and operation.
  • This treaty also gives Pakistan the right to raise objections to Indian hydroelectric project designs on the western rivers.
  • Equitable it may have seemed, but the fact remained that India conceded 80.52 per cent of the aggregate water flows in the Indus system to Pakistan.
  • It also gave Rs. 83 crore in pounds sterling to Pakistan to help build replacement canals from the westerns rivers. Such generosity is unsual of an upper riparian.
  • India conceded its upper riparian position on the western rivers for the complete rights on the eastern rivers.

Why are the two countries dissatisfied by the treaty?

  • From the Indian point of view, the basic dissatisfaction with the treaty arises from the fact that it prevents the country from building any storage systems on the western rivers.
  • Even though the treaty lays out that under certain exceptional circumstances storage systems can be built, the complaint raised by India is that Pakistan deliberately stops any such effort due to the political rivalry it shares with India.
  • Since the treaty's conception in 1960, the two countries have been embroiled in conflicts over a number of projects including the Salal hydroelectric project on the Chenab, the Tulbul project, the Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric plants.
  • Also, it is the framing of the treaty itself that has led to grievances.

1.    In the first place, the treaty is highly technical leading to far ranging divergences between the two countries in terms of interpretations. For instance, while the treaty says that storage systems can be built but to a limited extent, the technical details makes it increasingly difficult to conclude under what circumstances projects can be carried out.


2.    Added to this inherent limitation within the treaty is the political situation between the two countries.
3.    While India on the one hand tries to make maximum use of the breathing space provided by the treaty to build projects on the western rivers. Pakistan on account of its suspicions towards India keeps an extra keen eye on every technical aspect of the project and tries its absolute best to get it suspended.


What the Parliamentary Panel recommended?

  • Parliamentary panel has recommended renegotiating the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the river basin, along with other challenges which are not covered under the agreement.
  • Panel has also recommended that India should constantly monitor the Chinese actions to ensure that they do not pursue any major interventions on the Brahmaputra river which could adversely affect India's national interests.
  • Also it recommended that the government should examine the feasibily of making the maximum use of the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty in terms of full utilisation of all accessible water of the eastern rivers and the maximum utilisation of the irrigation and hydropower potential of western rivers including permissible water storage.

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