India VS Pakistan: The Game of Rivers - Indus Water Treaty

Indus water treaty is a water distribution treaty between two countries India and Pakistan.

First, let’s take a look at the geography and flow of Indus River. The Indus River originates in the western part of the Tibet close to the mount Kailash and the Mansarovar Lake and from the source of origin, river first flows through India then enters Pakistan. Hence, the reason why water sharing agreement was required in first place.
History first! It was signed in 1960 at Karachi by Jawaharlal Nehru and Ayub Khan and negotiated by World Bank. According to this treaty, the river system is mainly divided into two parts:-

1. The eastern rivers ( Sutlej, Ravi, Beas )
2. The western rivers ( Indus, Jhelum, Chenab )

The exclusive rights of western rivers were given to Pakistan and exclusive rights of eastern rivers were given to India. According to this treaty, all disputes are resolved by the legal framework. The countries agreed to contribute in all matters and created a permanent Indus water commission for this purpose. They meet regularly and all consultation and conflicts and resolved by them.

So what are the problems with this treaty?

Firstly, India is allowed to use 20% of Indus water for irrigation, power generation and transportation purposes, which is very less than as compare to Pakistan having 80% share.

Secondly, the storage capacity permitted to India for hydropower generation is less than the silt being generated in this process, so desilting is costing us heavily.

Thirdly, the treaty has not considered the Gujarat as an Indian State in the part of the Indus basin. The Indus River enters the great Rann of Kutch during floods.

After the partition, Pakistan constructed Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) without consenting India. What this does is, it bypass the saline and polluted water which is unfit for agriculture use to reach sea via Rann of Kutch area without passing through Indus delta. The water release from LBOD is enhancing flood in India and also contaminating water bodies which are a source of water to salt farm spread over a vast area.

The Indus water treaty fails to address division of water between India and Pakistan during dry years. It also does not take into consideration of population increase i.e. higher the population, higher will be the demand. The storage capacity of Pakistan is 28 days whereas world’s average is 900 days. Also, glaciers contribute to the large reservoir of fresh water to the river and making the river flow highly variable and give rise to crises frequently.

Recently Prime Minister Modi stated that “blood and water cannot flow together” after 2016 URI attack. So the Indian government stated that it would exercise its right under Indus water treaty to the fullest and would expand its utilisation of its rivers flowing through Jammu and Kashmir and as per the treaty has allowed India to use 20% of the water of western rivers. India has hardly used more than 4% and even the Indian farmers have not fully utilised the water of eastern rivers, thus letting the water flow freely into Pakistan. Pakistan is already a water starved country and if India decided to fully utilise its allotted water, it will create some serious trouble between India and Pakistan.

Let us now take a look at disputed areas and see how valid they are:-

The Indus treaty does not permit India to build storage dam over the eastern rivers but allows India to make limited use of rivers for power generation which require limited storage. The Baglihar Project as well as two other Kishanganga and Rattle Project is objected by Pakistan and seek World Bank help which took India’s stand completely.

The Indus water treaty clearly lays down the rules for dispute settling between two countries. Firstly, the dispute has to discuss bilaterally at the commission level and then go for the neutral expert and later to the World Bank if both approach jointly. The problem here is that Pakistan has only approached World Bank but not India which totally works in our favour.

The best part of the treaty is that it is the most successful water treaty in the world. Even three wars were fought between India and Pakistan but this treaty is never broken. Hence, the best thing that can be done to keep the treaty intact is to make some changes that suit the needs of both countries