Analysing the Indus Basin: the Basis of India-Pakistan Water Conflict

Topics: Indus River, Jhelum River, Pakistan Pages: 12 (4384 words) Published: October 27, 2011
Water as we understand is crucial for life and survival. Unfortunately sharing and managing this finite resource in South Asia has been a problem of great concern. At one level, there are issues that point to the fact that there is a water crisis looming over the region, whereas at another level, water tensions seem to be deeply embedded in the turbulent history of the region. Whichever the case maybe, the “water war” rationale forecasts war between countries that have competitive use or scarce water and are dependent on a shared water resource. Similarly, India-Pakistan water related differences point to the fact that there is either scarce or competitive use of water along with aspects of the historical enmity, which has led to the recent and most pronounced dispute over water issues of the Indus Basin1. The Indus Basin conflict is more complicated than it seems, owing to the turbulent history, lack of trust and differing requirements of the two countries. Though the two countries signed Indus Water Treaty in 1960 to prevent any water related conflicts, tension is now flaring over the recent dispute over the building of Kishanganga dam. It is clear now that the 1960 treaty is not enough for peaceful water sharing in this region and new methods need to be devised in order to limit the externalities i.e. damaging ecological and economic factors to the region1, 2. The objective of this research is to highlights these two main externalities of Kishanganga dam in the Pakistan region and provide a detailed analysis along with a glimpse of study area and finally propose possible solutions to this conflict. Objectives:

The geographical distribution of environmental and economic resources is a potential contributor of conflicts. Within the genre of these resources, water has been given the most importance, owing to the vital importance of water for human survival. One of the few examples of a successful settlement of a major international river basin conflict was The Indus Water Treaty 1960. This treaty was signed by the two countries in 1960, as an agreement to share the water of the Indus Basin. The Indus Water treaty is also one of the few examples of international agreements on sharing of river water that has been hailed as a success, despite the ongoing rivalry between the India and Pakistan2, 3. But, now Pakistan has raised concerns and strongly objected to India’s construction of a hydropower project on the Neelum River, known as Kishanganga River in India, a tributary of the Jhelum River in Kashmir. According to reports Pakistan claims that building of dams by India on the western rivers like the Kishangana Dam is a clear violation of the Indus Water treaty and will affect Pakistan’s access to water5. The cumulative effect of numerous projects like these could give India the ability to store enough water to limit the supply to Pakistan at crucial moments in the growing season. Table 1 shows the number of projects and their power generation capacity India has planned as compared to their neighbouring nations4. India however claims that the treaty through does not permit them to build dams for water storage on the western rivers passing through their territory; it does allow them to make limited use of water which includes building hydroelectric power projects. India therefore claims that the Kishanganga project comes under this category, and it is opposed by Pakistan on the narrow definition as to what the word “storage” means3, 4. The environmental impacts associated with constructing large scale dams, like the Kishanganga dam, have significant negative impacts on the environment. Apart from demolishment of towns and forests that surround the dam, it also affects upstream and downstream species, water quality and may increase the likelihood of earthquakes and landslides in the area. Construction of Kishanganga can also disrupt habitats of the large number of species living in the Indus River by creating...
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