Pakistan approaches the World Bank over Kishanganga hydro-project on Neelum river

Pakistan has officially asked the World Bank to ‘recognise its responsibility’ under the Indus Water Treaty of 1960 and requested it to intervene after confirming that India has completed the Kishanganga hydropower project.

According to reports, the power division of Pakistan’s energy ministry has sent a letter to the Vice President of the international financial organisation requesting them to make sure that India abides by the rules under the Indus Water Treaty while building the projects. A Pakistani official has stated to media outlets that Pakistan is certain that India has completed the 330 MW Kishanganga project while the World Bank has ‘paused’ it for a constitution of a Court of Arbitration (CoA) as requested by Pakistan in 2016. India had countered Pakistan’s request by calling for a neutral expert.

Under the guidelines of the Indus Water Treaty, the water of the eastern rivers, Sutlej, Beas and Ravi has been allocated to India and that of the western rivers, Indus, Jhelum and Chenab are allocated to Pakistan except for non-consumptive use. The Neelum river is called Kishanganga in India and originates in Gurais. It merges into the Jhelum near Muzaffarabad in Pakistan.

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The Indian Government has maintained that India’s share of water has also been going to Pakistan over the years and it will make sure that it is avoided by bringing in better projects.

Prime Minister Modi, soon after the Uri attacks, had chaired a review meeting of the Indus Water Treaty and stated that India would no longer be lenient on the treaty and would ensure that it exploits to the maximum of the water share under the pact. ‘Blood and water cannot flow together’, was the PM’s remark on the meeting. He had also announced the formation of an inter-ministerial task force to go into the details of the treaty and strategise better utilisation of the water of the rivers inside Indian territory.

Recently, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari also echoed the PM’s statements.

World Bank is the mediator between India and Pakistan on the water distribution treaty of 1960. Pakistan had earlier called for resolution of disputes on the Kishanganga project on Neelum and the Ratle (850 MW) project on the Chenab. It has also raised concerns over India’s proposed hydropower projects namely the Pakal Dul (1000 MW), Miyar (120 MW) and Lower Kalnai ( 48 MW). Pakistan alleges that these projects will significantly reduce water flow into their territory.

The Indus River System. courtesy: gktoday

The letter was sent to the World Bank after a Pakistani delegation of the Indus Water Commission was not allowed to visit projects in India, including the Kishanganga and Ratle. Pakistan had been alleging that the designs of the projects are not in line with the criteria laid down in the IW treaty but India has always insisted that they are ‘well within parameters’ and had urged the World Bank officials to appoint a neutral expert.

According to reports in the Pakistan media, the Pakistan government is under severe criticism from experts for failing to assert its rights internationally and losing legal battles over the issue. Pakistan has been accusing India of carrying out ‘water aggression’.

The last round of talks between India and Pakistan over the issue was mediated by The World Bank in Washington DC in September 2017 and ended in Pakistan’s disappointment. According to reports, the World Bank tried to bring the two countries to the negotiating table again but failed.

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