A water-sharing agreement signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan is known as the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT). The World Bank
brokered it. This is an important treaty and one of the most significant deals to date on water-sharing.
WHAT IS THE INDUS WATERS TREATY (IWT)?
The IWT was signed by Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Indian Prime Minister, and Ayub Khan, the then Pakistani President. The negotiations for the deal, brokered by the World Bank (then known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), went on for nine years.
The Indus River and its tributaries has been a point of contention between the four countries through which Indus and its tributaries flows since the partition of India in 1947: India, Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan.
In 1948, India had blocked Pakistan's water for some time but later restored it after the ceasefire. Pakistan took the matter to the United Nations ( UN) in 1951 and accused India of reducing the supply of water to several villages in Pakistan.
The World Bank came up with this agreement in 1954 on the advice of the UN. On September 19, 1960, it was finally signed.
IMPORTANT NOTES ON INDUS WATERS TREATY (IWT):
The treaty sets out the water-sharing terms for the Indus River and its five tributaries.
India has acquired control of the three eastern rivers:
Pakistan has jurisdiction over the three rivers in the west, which are:
- All waters of the Eastern Rivers shall be at the disposal of India for unlimited use before any unwanted circumstance occurs.
- A Permanent Indus Commission, with an arbitration process to settle conflicts amicably, was created by the United Nations to settle any disputes that may occur in the field of water sharing.The Commission is required to meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan and also when requested by either Commissioner. The Commission is also required to undertake tours of inspection of the Rivers and Works for ascertaining the facts connected with various developments and works on the Rivers.
- India can use the water from the western rivers for domestic, non-consumptive needs such as irrigation, and even electricity generation, according to the treaty.
- The treaty provides 20% of the water from the Indus River System to India and 80% to Pakistan for the remaining.
- Each country(India / Pakistan) will prevent, as far as possible, any material damage to the other country when implementing any flood prevention or flood control scheme.
- The use of natural river channels for the discharge of floods or other surplus waters shall be free of charge and shall not be limited by either India or Pakistan, and neither country shall have any claim against the other for any damage caused by such use.
- Article IX of the Treaty deals with the settlement of differences and disputes. If the Commission is unable to resolve a specific problem, provisions have been made for reference to a Neutral Expert under Annexure E and a Court of Arbitration Annexure G.
- Article XII provides for the provisions of the Treaty to continue in force until terminated by a duly ratified treaty between the two Governments.
INDUS WATERS TREATY (IWT) CONCERNS:
The treaty has been controversial, with both sides accusing each other of breaching the terms of the treaty.
- In 2016, Pakistan approached the World Bank to raise questions about the construction of India's Kishenganga and Ratle hydroelectric power projects in Jammu & Kashmir. India then demanded that the plants be inspected by impartial experts, claiming that the points posed by Pakistan were technical and do not need an arbitration tribunal (as Pakistan has taken it to an arbitration tribunal). After negotiations were concluded between both countries on the technicalities of the treaty, the World Bank allowed India to continue with the projects.
- After Pakistan objected to it, the Tulbul project (which is a navigation lock-cum-control structure at the mouth of Wular Lake, located on the Jhelum from Anantnag to Srinagar and Baramulla) was suspended in 1987. The government recently agreed to re-examine this suspension without taking into account Pakistan's protests.
- In India's Gujarat, the Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) project of Pakistan passes through the Rann of Kutch. Without the approval of India, the project was built. As this is in contravention of the IWT, India has objected. The lower riparian state is in India and so all details need to be given. The danger of flooding in the state of Gujarat also exists.
- Recently, India and Pakistan's bilateral relations have taken a downward spiral. As Prime Minister Modi remarked in the aftermath of the Uri attacks on India, blood and water could not flow simultaneously, suggesting to Pakistan that its border-wide support for terrorism will lead India to reconsider its generous position on the IWT. Indeed, the treaty is more favorable to Pakistan than to India, many experts say.
- Another issue cited by the IWT is that it was signed by the then PM Nehru on behalf of India. He was not the head of state, however, and that the treaty should have been signed by the head of state, the country's then-president.
- As per the provisions of the IWT, India does not use its entire share of water to which it is entitled. Around 2 million acre-feet (MAF) of India's unused water from the Ravi River flows into Pakistan.
- The Indian government announced in the wake of the Pulwama attacks in 2019 that all water currently flowing into Pakistan, in the three eastern rivers, will be diverted for various uses to Haryana, Punjab, and Rajasthan.
WHAT IS INDIA DOING TO UTILIZE ITS SHARE OF EASTERN RIVERS?
India has built the following dams to use the waters of the Eastern rivers that have been allocated to India for exclusive use:
- Bhakra - Satluj,
- Pong & Pandoh - Beas
- Thein (Ranjit Sagar) - Ravi
Other works, such as Beas-Sutlej Link, Madhopur-Beas Link, Indira Gandhi Nahar Project, etc., have helped India use almost the entire proportion of Eastern river waters (95%).
Approximately 2 million acre-feet (MAF) of Ravi water per year, however, is stated to be still flowing unused below Madhopur to Pakistan.
The following steps have been taken to avoid the movement of these waters belonging to India for use in India:
- Shahpurkandi Project: This project would help to exploit the waters in J&K and Punjab coming from Thein Dam powerhouse for irrigation and power generation. Under the guidance of the Govt of India, the building work is being carried out by the Govt of Punjab.
- Ujh multipurpose project construction: This project will create a water storage project for irrigation and power generation in India on the Ujh River, a Ravi tributary. This project is a national project and will have a completion period of 6 years from the start of implementation.
- The 2nd Ravi Beas link below Ujh: This project is designed to tap excess water flowing down through the Ravi River to Pakistan, even after building Thein Dam, by building a barrage across the Ravi River to funnel water through a tunnel link to the Beas Basin. Uh, Govt. This project was declared by India as a national project. The three projects listed above will allow India to use its entire share of the waters provided under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty.