How to Deal With India’s Water Terrorism?

By Sajjad Shaukatdam

Since the 9/11 tragedy, international community has been taking war against terrorism seriously, while there are also other forms of bloodless wars, being waged in the world and the same are like terrorism. Political experts opine that modern terrorism has many meanings like violent acts, economic terrorism etc., but its main aim is to achieve political, economic and social ends. Judging in these terms, India water terrorism against Pakistan continues unabated.

In March, 2011, speaking in diplomatic language, Indus Water Commissioner of India G. Ranganathan denied that India’s decision to build dams on rivers led to water shortage in Pakistan. He also rejected Islamabad’s concerns at water theft by New Delhi or violation of the Indus Water Treaty of 1960, assuring his counterpart, Syed Jamaat Ali Shah that all issues relating to water would be resolved through dialogue. However, ground realties are quite different from what Ranganathan maintained.

Besides other permanent issues and, especially the dispute of Kashmir which has always been used by India to malign and pressurize Pakistan, water of rivers has become a matter of life and death for every Pakistani, as New Delhi has been employing it as a tool of terrorism to blackmail Pakistan.

Pakistan is a grave victim of water scarcity, because of being on lower riparian in relation to the rivers emanating from the Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK). India has never missed an opportunity to harm Pakistan since its inception; it is creating deliberate water shortages for Pakistan with the aim to impair Pakistan agriculturally. Historically, India has been trying to establish her hegemony in the region by controlling water sources and damaging agricultural economies of her neighbouring states. India has water disputes with Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Off late, radical Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi has ordered diverting water of Chenab River to Beas, which is a serious violation of Indus Water Treaty and international laws. The recent move coupled with already launched water offensive by India would convert Pakistan into a desert akin to Somalia and Ethiopia, the two drought ridden countries of Africa. By establishing numerous dams on the rivers, flowing from IHK, India has not only deprived Pakistan of its due right rather it can regulate the flow of rivers at her will and can sink Pakistan within 48 hours, if it so decides by opening the gates of these dams.

It is notable that climate change is affecting the whole world and water sources are rapidly becoming a rare commodity. It is often quoted that the future wars would be fought on water. Pakistan’s per capita water availability is reduced to an estimated 950 cubic meters as compared to 5,500 cubic meters in 1951. Ironically, despite having acute water shortage Pakistan faces floods almost every year which cause losses in term of lives, property, displacement and suffering for the people from KPK province, down to that of Sindh and Balochistan. These floods result into a lot of water resource wastage, as we do not have facilities to store the flood water. Almost 22 million acre feet (MAF) of fresh water go to the sea unutilized which can be saved through construction of water reservoirs. The existing live storage capacity in Pakistan is only 14.10 MAF or only 9.7 percent as against the world average of 40 percent. The engineered sensitivity and resultant controversy over a dam issue has damaged the national point of view. With only two existing major reservoirs in the Indus basin, Mangla and Tarbela dams, the storage capacity of Pakistan is only about 30 days, while most of the developed countries have 1-2 years water storage capability. Unfortunately we are not only suffering from the water shortage/water terrorism from India, but have also failed in water storage and management as well.

Quaid-e-Azam declared Kashmir as jugular vein for Pakistan and that is proving true today. Nation needs to stand united against Indian water terrorism. Pakistan must explore all political and diplomatic means to ensure water security. At the same time, the Kashmir issue needs to be taken up with fresh vigor in the light of Quaid’s vision.

Dams provide valuable water storage for agriculture and electricity production. We need to raise our capacity by investing in big dams to overcome perpetual electric crisis and improve our agriculture. In Indus basin alone huge and fertile irrigable areas are available but due to the water shortage, but, they remain deserted. Pakistan is fast becoming a water scarce country. More than 30 million acre feet (MAF) of water is wasted, going down into the sea, as against 8-10 MAF required downstream Kotri for environmental reasons. The increased storage capacity from building new reservoirs could store floodwater for productive use and lessen flood peaks downstream.

New Delhi is also constructing a large dam in Kargil on River Indus which will block 45% flow of water to Pakistan. It is said to be the world’s 3rd largest dam. India has also finalized plans to build a dam on River Kabul and set up Kama Hydroelectric Project using 0.5MAF of Pakistan water with the approval of ex-president Hamid Karzai.

Recently, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah has stated that 2.2 million acres of land in Thatta has been encroached by the sea due to non-implementation of the 1991 Water Accord which calls for release of minimum required 10 MAF water downstream Kotri to help stop the increasing intrusion. The less than required down flow of water beyond Kotri Barrage not only results in turning huge stretches of land in Sindh into barren land, rather it has the potential of creating inter provincial misunderstanding as well. The establishment of dams can ensure regular required down flow of water round the year.

To recapitulate, Para 6 of the Water Apportionment Accord 1991 signed by the provinces on March 16, and later ratified by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on March 21 1991, clearly recognizes the need of new water storages for future agricultural development as out of 14 Paras of the accord—six were about development and opening of a new era of expansion of water resources.

Local and international water experts, including those from the World Bank and Earth Policy Institute have also been warning Islamabad about a major water crisis in the next 10-40 years owing to unusually fast depletion of the Himalayan glaciers, low storage capacity and other related uncertainties. Some of the experts have even pointed out that Himalayan glaciers, contributing over 80 percent water to the Indus river that feeds more than 65 percent of the country’s agriculture, are receding at a rate of 30-50 meters per annum.
An International Panel of Experts (IPOE) was appointed by the federal government on demand of the Sindh government and in consultation with the World Bank to have an independent external review of the three studies conducted by different top ranking consulting firms. The IPOE has recommended that an escapade at Kotri Barrage of 3.6 MAF per year @ 5,000 cfs is considered necessary to check seawater intrusion, accommodate the needs of fisheries and environmental sustainability and to maintain the river channels.

Alongside building dams, Islamabad also needs to put its irrigation system in order. We waste nearly 60% of water in distribution due to unpaved canals, distributaries and irrigation channels. There is a need to improve all these on modern lines to ensure that whatever water we have is not wasted and optimally utilized.

Genuine concerns of the provinces over new water reservoirs have to be understood and addressed. However, most of the concerns are shaped by wrong perceptions and can be better managed through an improved information and communication campaign.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations


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