Whose Waters Are They?
provision has become a major area of intervention by the
State in developing countries over recent years.
The state, worldwide is
considering or tackling reforms in their organisational,
operational policy making and other implementation measures
over the governance and management of water resources.
Growing scarcity of water
resources, whole spectra around energy crisis, increasing
demand and differences over the water utilisation plus the
burgeoning population and in particularly poor water
management has resulted both in increase in demand for water
And also put on some critical
issues among users thereby, becoming a source of conflict
and rivalries.With nearly 300 major watercourses shared by
two or more states and ever-increasing demand on the world’s
diminishing water resources (UNESCO 2003), there may be some
justification in the assertion by certain commentators that
“Water Wars” are imminent in the near future.
On this backdrop, the Indus
Water treaty (IWT), brokered by the World Bank and signed by
India and Pakistan on September 19, 1960 over the water
sharing of Indus basin has in recent past threatened by many
economic and political developments along with suffering a
genuine discourse from some new players.
There has been a huge
disagreement over the treaty on distribution of potential
gains and losses from new players and from many new
Striking in this particular
profusion of claims, the recent demand for ‘Compensation’ by
the government of J&K over the continuing losses due to the
treaty and the move to quantify such losses suffered seems,
to be making headway.
Subsequently, considering the
present problems regarding the Supply-Demand matrix of
energy, ailing Agriculture sector, and future projections of
energy demands in the state the time is ripe for its
emendation and to solve this riddle of ‘meaningful share’.
But, should it be simply
based on the whole idea of ‘Compensation’ or zero sum game
logic? Perhaps, the idea is to move beyond that..
Having withstood three Indo-Pak wars, the treaty is usually
cited as a notable example of durability in adversity. Over
the years, the treaty was persistent, owing to the
fulfilment of the required water needs for both the
However, apparently, the main
and inherent discord started manifesting over the
hydroelectric power projects in Jammu and Kashmir.
Though, both countries already fought many legal battles for
control over water resources, the most important Kashmiri
narrative also took place in between bringing into question
the provisions of the treaty and the principles on which it
According, to many estimates
and studies the treaty has caused severe distress on the
The latest Economic survey
Report of J&K for the year 2013-14, also paints a dismal
picture of States agricultural sector and food security
scenario besides, mentioning of the already existing energy
The exponential increase in
food grain imports which went up to 10 lakh metric tonnes in
2012 is definitely a grave matter of concern.
As per the Survey, a major
constraint to the development of agriculture sector in the
state is irrigation problem. Only 50% of the irrigation
potential of the state has been harnessed so far.
The survey also portrays that
Irrigation facility revolves between, only 42% to 43% of the
net area sown and as taking the average of the last 3 years
into consideration irrigation facility is available to
barely 43.2% of the net area sown and the remaining 56.78%
is dependent on rain gods.
Monsoon failure and
subsequent drying of canals add to such risks. Since state
is deficient in rainfall; and paddy is a major staple food
crop which needs lot of water, the development of irrigation
schemes becomes a primary need to improve the productivity
of food grain production.
However, the state’s
irrigation potential is predominantly worst hit by certain
provisions of IWT.
In case of Kashmir region
only, a meagre 0.5 MAF could be stored under general storage
on Jhelum basin and that too only on various streams that
form its tributaries.
Taking prior permission from
the Indus commission for every new irrigation scheme is also
intricate in this matter. This dismal picture of the
agriculture sector is also alarming in terms of food
The constant increase in food
grain imports which were as high as 5.03 lakh metric tons in
2002 to an alarming 10 lakh metric tons in 2012, almost
double as against of 2002 is definitely not healthy for the
state and their needs an important mechanism to overcome
Similarly, on the energy front their needs an immediate
intervention. With the rapid population growth and
increasing talk of industrialisation in the state, the
future energy matrix, demands a high boost.
According to Survey, only
21.91 % of the required power is generated within the State
while the rest 78.08% has to be purchased from Northern Grid
taking the state to spend around 3,600 crore annually.
Similarly, during the year 2012-13 power purchased recorded
an increase of 3.01%.
The State is endowed with a
huge potential of Renewable energy and particularly among
them is hydroelectric power but, the total hydropower
generated in the state till last year was just 1600.83 MW.
Ironically the development in this sector has not been
commensurate because of many reasons, primarily being IWT.
The hydro-power potential in
the state is of the order of 20,000 MW of which about 16,480
MW has been identified, and a mere 16% (of identified
potential) has been exploited so far as the treaty disallows
the state for any construction of storage reservoirs except
on its run-of-river projects.
The restrictions also limited
to the water storage level. Moreover, the main power
generating projects in the state have already become
controversial due to design parameters.
But, considering this strong case of ‘lost benefits’ is it
viable to demand for adequate ‘compensation’. Since, such
incorporation of changes is also contested by various
ecological implications and efficient downstream water flow
arguments and above all climate change.
As temperature rises, the
Himalayan glaciers that feed the most important rivers of
Indus are retreating at an accelerated rate. Thus, adding
some new imperatives viable environmental concerns.
The IWT is particularly and historically based on classic
engineering formulas only, however, with the changing
perceptions around environmental viability and ecological
concerns the potential collapse in Indus delta and grave
ecological effects on the whole Indus basin is quite
possible in near future.
The Indus basin is under
immense pressure and one of the most depleted basins in the
world (Sharma et al 2010) and decreased water flow in basin
particularly in downstream areas is a matter of concern.
Some seasons, the water does
not even reach to sea thus making it a closed basin (Molle
et al 2010).
The survival of the Mangroves
of Indus delta is also a matter of concern, which is largely
associated with perennial fresh water supplies from the
Indus River. The Indus delta Mangroves are considered as
unique in being the largest arid climate Mangroves in the
world (Amjad 2007).
Though, there have very few
studies over the possible disastrous implications which have
taken note of considerable loss of Mangrove forests in
Pakistan both qualitatively and quantitatively over last few
The Indus delta mangrove
ecosystem is primarily dependent upon silt-laden, fresh
water discharges from the River Indus which is the only
source for the above supplies.
So, the necessary amount of
fresh water is necessary to regulate the delta and recover
some disastrous implications from dying fisheries, erosion
Thus, from an ecological point of view, under global warming
and changing climatic conditions it’s necessary to have out
of the box thinking. Multiple factors will determine how the
politics of energy and water will play out in the State.
The arguments surrounding the
ecological impacts, environmental losses and other threats
to downstream will have to face trade-offs with competing
arguments about the development of hydropower and growth of
So, if IWT is to be saved
from political cul de sac, the treaty has to move beyond
‘zero sum logic’ of dividing water or ideas of traditional
argument of potential benefits.
For the state, the potential
eco-system losses to downstream users can be put to have an
excellent argument for environmental transactions on the
Such potential benefits will
not only help in eco-system preservation of Indus system but
will also be presumed as developmental benefits for the
state and to avoid any further ‘non-traditional security
The way ahead
Sufficiency should be enough for everyone and forever.
Increasing demand, scarcity of water resources among water
utilisation problems has already paid a wave of potential
conflict in near future.
India and Pakistan have
already shown such points of friction before and now more
particularly with an increasing consciousness in J&K over
the share in IWT; the region is haunted by many new
The Indus Water treaty though
has travelled a landmark journey by surviving through three
wars needs a revisit and fresh look from a Kashmiri
The principle of sharing of
net benefits and net costs should have to envisage on the
basis of ecological calculations rather, than traditional
The increase in population, the rise of the urban middle
class and ever increase in economy of cultural eventually
has a major implications on food security and food demand in
Thus, a rapid investment in
irrigation and energy sector is highly has also become a
need of the hour.
There immediately needs a
significant change in increasing the area of agricultural
land, in particular Perennial Staple Crops with more
facilities and giving other farm improvement plans besides
other facilities to farmers will increase food crop
productivity in the state.
On the other side, the wide
gap between demand and supply of energy need an immediate
The best alternative in this
context will be to develop small hydropower stations which
are techno-economic viable schemes and have liberal
financial norms from various financial institutions working
through the policies of MNRE, GOI.
However, in order to tackle
all these pressing issues, an all-inclusive and overarching
vision needs to be articulated at the State level and in
particular through civil society groups.