Indus Water Treaty: Civil Services Mentor Magazine: November - 2016

Indus Water Treaty

Terrorist attack in Uri army base has shocked the nation. Indian government thought about various possibilities before the surgical strike by the government. Among the other options one of the option was invoking the Indus water treaty. PM of India conducted a review meeting for the same and also said that blood and water can't go together. Pakistan has time and again raised objection against the treaty. Pakistan had gone to the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague earlier with objections against the hydro power project of India in kishenganga river, which is a tributary of Jhelum. In 2013, the court gave the go-ahead to India on some conditions. Treaty provides for three-stage grievance redress. Disputes first raised at meetings, If unresolved, dispute is referred to neutral expert World Bank appoints. If that too fails, sides can apply for arbitration by the UN's court of arbitration.

The waters of the Indus basin begin in Tibet and the Himalayan mountains in the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. They flow from the hills through the states of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir and Sindh, converging in Pakistan and emptying into the Arabian Sea south of Karachi. Where once there was only a narrow strip of irrigated land along these rivers, developments over the last century have created a large network of canals and storage facilities that provide water for more than 26 million acres (110,000 km2), the largest irrigated area of any one river system in the world.

The partition of British India created a conflict over the plentiful waters of the Indus basin. The newly formed states were at odds over how to share and manage what was essentially a cohesive and unitary network of irrigation. Furthermore, the geography of partition was such that the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India. Pakistan felt its livelihood threatened by the prospect of Indian control over the tributaries that fed water into the Pakistani portion of the basin. Where India certainly had its own ambitions for the profitable development of the basin, Pakistan felt acutely threatened by a conflict over the main source of water for its cultivable land.

The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank. The treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan. According to this treaty, control over the three "eastern" rivers — the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej — was given to India, while control over the three "western" rivers — the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum was given to the Pakistan. However the major challenge was the way to decide how the water would be shared between India and Pakisan. Since Pakistan's rivers flow through India first, the treaty allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation, while laying down precise regulations for Indian building projects along the way. The treaty was a result of Pakistani fear that, since the source rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war.

Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. The treaty is considered to be one of the most successful watersharing endeavours in the world today, even though analysts acknowledge the need to update certain technical specifications and expand the scope of the document to include climate change. As per the provisions in the treaty, India can use only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river.

All the waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be available for the unrestricted use of India, except as otherwise expressly provided. Except for Domestic Use and Non-Consumptive Use, Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow, and shall not permit any interference with, the waters of the Sutlej Main and the Ravi Main in the reaches where these rivers flow in Pakistan and have not yet finally crossed into Pakistan. The Points of final crossing are the following : (a) near the new Hasta Bund upstream of Suleimanke in the case of the Sutlej Main, and (b) about one and a half miles upstream of the syphon for the B-R-B-D Link in the case of the Ravi Main. Except for Domestic Use, Non-Consumptive Use and Agricultural Use (as specified in Annexure B), Pakistan shall be under an obligation to let flow, and shall not permit any interference with, the waters (while flowing in Pakistan) of any Tributary which in its natural course joins the Sutlej Main or the Ravi Main before these rivers have finally crossed into Pakistan.

All the waters, while flowing in Pakistan, of any Tributary which, in its natural course, joins the Sutlej Main or the Ravi Main after these rivers have finally crossed into Pakistan shall be available for the unrestricted use of Pakistan : Provided however that this provision shall not be construed as giving Pakistan any claim or right to any releases by India in any such Tributary.

However, a transition period of 10 years was permitted in which India was bound to supply water to Pakistan from these rivers until Pakistan was able to build the canal system for utilization of waters of Jhelum, Chenab and the Indus itself, allocated to it under the treaty. Similarly, Pakistan has exclusive use of the western rivers Jhelum, Chenab and Indus. Pakistan also received one-time financial compensation for the loss of water from the eastern rivers. Since March 31, 1970, after the 10-year moratorium, India has secured full rights for use of the waters of the three rivers allocated to it. The treaty resulted in partitioning of the rivers rather than sharing of their waters.

There are various terms which are given inside the Indus water treaty which are important for the proper understanding of the treaty. The terms "Domestic Use" means the use of water for drinking, washing, bathing, recreation, sanitation (including the conveyance and dilution of sewage and of industrial and other wastes), stock and poultry, and other like purposes; household and municipal purposes (including use for household gardens and public recreational gardens); and industrial purposes (including mining, milling and other like purposes); but the term does not include Agricultural Use or use for the generation of hydro-electric power.
The term "Non-Consumptive Use" means any control or use of water for navigation, floating of timber or other property, flood protection or flood control, fishing or fish culture, wild life or other like beneficial purposes, provided that, exclusive of seepage and evaporation of water incidental to the control or use, the water (undiminished in volume within the practical range of measurement) remains in, or is returned to, the same river or its Tributaries; but the term does not include Agricultural Use or use for the generation of hydro-electric power.

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