One of the vital nutrient of life is water without which no life is possible. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day. Pakistan is a God gifted country with plenty of resources particularly water which is in abundance but it is becoming scarce due to politics played over it by local and international players. Three main sources of water for Pakistan are glaciers, rainfall or monsoons and ground water. Climatic change, deforestation, vanishing glaciers and over extraction of underground waterare some factors effecting water resources. But in case of India and Pakistan water issue is partition old and India often manipulated tactics to deprive Pakistan from its due share.
Pakistan, in initial years after independence faced lot of problems particularly in agriculture because of stoppage of water by India. As the major rivers flowing towards Pakistan originate from India, dispute and sharing over water always came up issue for Pakistan because of Indian stubbornness. To overcome problems an Indus Water Treaty was signed between India and Pakistan with the help of World Bank in 1960. Apparently it seemed that this agreement will put an end to water issue between two neighbours but with passage of time it is observed that this treaty is often violated by India and it causes serious water shortages for the Pakistan.
Before independence British constructed canal system to irrigate the area which is now modern day Pakistan. Partition left that system dependent on India for supply of water to Pakistan. According to Indus Water Treaty (IWT), water that flows into river Indus will be shared between the two countries but as the tributaries of Indus River originate in India, it is always playing politics on distribution of water to Pakistan. Before Indus Water Treaty, distribution of water was made on an adhoc basis. Following the treaty usage of three eastern offshoots of rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi were given to India while three western rivers tributaries Chenab, Jhelum and the Indus were approved for Pakistan.
All of these six rivers flow through Kashmir which is bone of contention between two South Asian neighbours. Pakistan therefore depends on India for its water security.It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan is one of the world’s most arid countries, with an average rainfall of under 240 mm a year. The population and the economy are heavily dependent on yearly inflow into the Indus river system which includes the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej rivers and receive about 180 billion cubic meters of water that generally come from the neighbouring countries and mostly from snow-melt in the Himalayas. The balance between population and available water already makes Pakistan one of the most water stressed countries of the world and with rapid population growth it will soon enter a condition of absolute water scarcity.
Pakistan definitely is concerned by Indian plans of making hydro power projects in Indian occupied Kashmir. According to Pakistan, India violated the terms and conditions of Indus Water Treaty many times by constructing dams and planning of more construction of hydro power projects thereby gaining full control on the waters of western rivers.
India in order to sabotage Pakistan economically often generates water projects despite settlements through Indus Water Treaty. In 1984 India started building Wullar Barrage on River Jhelum in IHK. In mid 90s India again violated IWT by construction of Baghliar Dam on River Chenab.
In 2005, Pakistan pursued the World Bank’s help to stop construction of the Baglihar dam. Although WB allowed India to go ahead with the venture after a few adjustments, yet it did not license the interruption of the agreed quota of water flow to Pakistan. Indian decision to construct two hydro power projects called Kishanganga on River Neelum are again violation of Indus Water Treaty. India is taking undue advantage in construction of Ksihanganga and Ratle hydro power projects on western tributaries. Indus Water Commission has also raised concerns on construction of dams by India in occupied territory of Kashmir.
There is a dire need that Pakistan should take stand on its water resources as soon as possible so that India be stopped from constructing dams with malfunctioning designs on Pakistan’s share of water. Pakistan must also work on steady basis to construct more dams to overcome problems related to water scarcity and power generation. If Pakistan will not take this matter seriously,it will definitely encourage India for its moves against Pakistan and will effect Pakistan’s stance on water resources badly.
The delay in making approach to World Bank to resolve dispute between two countries and asking for appointment of neutral party is favouring India and Pakistan losing its position. If India raises the issue at official level, then Pakistan must seek arbitration and involve World Bank, International Court of Justice and other relevant international forums to resolve water dispute with India and must come forward after doing necessary homework.In order to prevent the chance of conflict arising due to sharing of water of various rivers, Indus Water Treaty to be protected at all costs and India should not be allowed to misapprehend it or take advantage of the loopholes.
Dams and other structures developed on the western rivers, on which Pakistan has the exclusive right should be monitored for any water mal-regulation capability. Putting own house in order by constructing dams and water structures to meet our present and future requirements of water and electricity is an absolute compulsion Awareness through print and electronic media can help in highlighting water scarcity and effective management of available water reservoirs.Pakistan in any case must take bold initiatives to stop Indian water terrorism as Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan rightly said:
“Impending water threat will pose a threat greater than nuclear capability of our enemy”